03/06 19:51 CST No. 7 S Carolina women top No. 14 Tennessee, reach SEC final
No. 7 S Carolina women top No. 14 Tennessee, reach SEC final
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) --- Zia Cooke scored 17 points and Aliyah Boston had 15
points and 11 rebounds as No. 7 South Carolina rolled past No. 14 Tennessee
67-52 Saturday night and into the SEC Tournament title game for the sixth time
in seven years.
The defending champion Gamecocks (21-4) will seek their sixth tournament crown
since 2015 on Sunday against No. 16 Georgia, which beat top-seeded and No. 2
Texas A&M 74-68 in the other semifinal.
This semi was never close once South Carolina took off on a 19-2 burst to close
first quarter for a 29-13 lead.
Unlike the first meeting between these teams --- Tennessee rallied from 16 down
to hand South Carolina its first SEC loss in two seasons --- the Gamecocks kept
the pressure up throughout.
Tennessee (16-7) was trying for its first finals appearance since 2015. That
year it lost the title to upstart South Carolina, the beginning of Gamecock
dominance over the SEC that doesn't appear to be ending yet.
Boston and Cooke made that clear with their play throughout this one.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 low-post powerhouse, showed off her outside game with a
pair of 3-pointers to go along with three assists, two blocks and a steal.
Cooke also had a pair of 3s and continually buzzed through the Tennessee
defense for baskets.
South Carolina took control with its early run. The Lady Vols were in front
11-10 on Rennia Davis' 3-pointer midway through the period when the Gamecocks
took off on their game-breaking surge.
Boston began the run with a 3-pointer, just her ninth of the season, and Cooke
closed it with a 3-pointer and three free throws to put the Gamecocks up by 16.
South Carolina, though, isn't always comfortable playing from way ahead.
The Gamecocks led at Tennessee 37-21 on Feb. 18 before the Lady Vols rallied
for a 75-67 victory. And in Friday's quarterfinals, South Carolina opened a
27-point lead on Alabama in the first 15 minutes, then saw the Crimson Tide cut
things to seven points in crunch time.
The Gamecocks weren't going to let this one slip away. Destanni Henderson hit a
jumper to start the third quarter and Boston followed with her second 3.
The Lady Vols appeared to be dragging a bit after a hard-fought, 77-72 win over
Mississippi on Friday night, coming from six points down in the fourth quarter.
Davis, who had 33 points and 14 rebounds against Ole Miss, finished with nine
points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Jordan Walker and Jordan Horston had 11 points each to lead the Lady Vols.
Tennessee was held to its fewest points of the season.
Boston's double-double was her second straight in the tournament and 27th of
THE BIG PICTURE
Tennessee: The Lady Vols used to own this event, winning 17 times between 1980
and 2014. Now, their run of missing the finals has grown to six straight years.
Tennessee will have some work ahead to prepare for what they hope is a deep
NCAA Tournament run.
South Carolina: While the Gamecocks have a 13-game win streak over Georgia, the
Bulldogs are showing patience, versatility and their own ability to regroup
quickly as they did to defeat Texas A&M.
Tennessee will await its NCAA Tournament pairing.
South Carolina goes against No. 16 Georgia for the SEC Tournament title Sunday.
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