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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Freshman Zia Cooke scored 27 points as South Carolina’s young, quick guards controlled the pace, and the sixth-ranked Gamecocks followed their big win at Maryland by dominating Dayton 75-49 on Wednesday night.
South Carolina (3-0) was coming off a 64-54 victory at then-No. 4 Maryland that represented an impressive early step for a young roster led by shot-blocking freshman Aliyah Boston. The Gamecocks’ backcourt and suffocating front line were too much for Dayton (2-1), which fell behind by 26 in the second quarter and never recovered.
Boston has quickly become a focal point of the Gamecocks’ retooled roster — only two seniors from their team that reached the Sweet 16 last season. Boston had a triple-double in her first collegiate game and led the nation in blocked shots with 15 in her first two games.
While Boston and the rest of South Carolina’s front line dug in defensively, the Gamecocks’ guards led the way to another one-sided win. Cooke, who was one of the nation’s top prep point guards at nearby Toledo, Ohio, went 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and had seven rebounds. Boston had 11 points, two rebounds and one of South Carolina’s 10 blocks.
Jenna Giacone scored 18 for Dayton, which shot only 22% from the field.
The Gamecocks got the ball inside to Boston for their first two baskets, setting the tone. She had plenty of help. Cooke followed her miss with a rebound and a basket, hit a pair of 3s and added a couple of free throws as South Carolina surged ahead 22-6, holding the Flyers scoreless for the last 7:57 of the opening quarter.
South Carolina’s defense quickly got the Flyers flustered. Jayla Scaife was so worried about getting her short jumper swatted away that she shot it over the backboard.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ physical front line has intimidated shooters. The Flyers missed 22 of their first 26 shots while falling behind by 26 points.
Dayton: The Flyers couldn’t keep up with South Carolina’s guards, who drove for baskets and came down with rebounds against taller players. Cooke and sophomore Destanni Henderson each had four rebounds as South Carolina gathered 27 in the first half.
South Carolina hosts Appalachian State on Sunday.
Dayton plays at Northeastern on Saturday.