The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks beat No. 9 Oregon, advance to Battle 4 Atlantis championship game

<p>Junior guard Zia Cooke weaves through the Clemson defense on her way to the basket.&nbsp;The Gamecocks beat the Oregon Ducks by 80-63 Nov. 21, 2021, and Cooke led the team in scoring.</p>

Junior guard Zia Cooke weaves through the Clemson defense on her way to the basket. The Gamecocks beat the Oregon Ducks by 80-63 Nov. 21, 2021, and Cooke led the team in scoring.

Powered by strong shooting and a stout defense, the South Carolina women's basketball team beat No.9 Oregon on Sunday afternoon by a score of 80-63.

The win over the Ducks makes for the Gamecocks' second top-10 win in just five games this season.

Junior guard Zia Cooke led South Carolina in scoring with 20 points, 9 of which came in the first quarter. Cooke's fast start helped get the Gamecocks to an early 27-14 lead over Oregon at the end of the first quarter, a lead they'd maintain for the rest of the game.

The team as a whole shot its best in the first quarter, making a solid 56.3% of its shots. South Carolina shot 75% from 3 in the first quarter with Cooke, junior guard Brea Beal and senior guard Destanni Henderson all making a 3-pointer.

After the game, head coach Dawn Staley said she saw improvement from the team's last game against Buffalo early on.

"We challenged our players to play a lot better than we played last night. I mean, they accepted the challenge and played well," Staley said. "We want to play our best basketball on both sides of the ball, and I thought we had glimpses of it for long stretches in this game, and we just have to complete it."

While the Gamecocks created opportunities on offense, its defense shut down Oregon in the first quarter.

The Ducks may have shot 50% from the field during the first quarter, but they had no 3-point attempts and couldn't get to the charity stripe for any free throw attempts.

Cooke's two steals were some of the seven turnovers the South Carolina defense forced on Sunday. In total it forced 20 turnovers, an improvement from its last game against Buffalo where the defense forced 12. 

South Carolina was also able to out rebound Oregon throughout the entire game. Junior forwards Aliyah Boston and Laeticia Amihere combined for 15 of the Gamecocks' 41 rebounds; Oregon only recorded 30 rebounds in the game. Boston finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Amihere was a spark off the bench for South Carolina, she accounted for 18 of the 26 bench points and was the team's second leading scorer. Amihere went 6-7 from the free throw line and had seven rebounds and two steals in the 20 minutes she played to accompany her point total.

Outside of Amihere, 14 Gamecocks saw minutes on the floor on Sunday, and only four were unable to score. The same can't be said for Oregon: The Ducks had eight players get minutes and only one player was scoreless. 

Amihere has shown consistent improvements in her game during her three years in Columbia, something Staley said is partially credited to her recovering from a torn ACL a few years ago.

"We we need her. We absolutely need her," Staley said. "If she didn't get the early minutes in her career, we'd be seeing the progress go a lot slower than what it is. Now we're at a place where she knows we count on her. I mean, she plays with grit; she plays with toughness; she doesn't back down from anybody; and she's one that will go to war."

Oregon had four players score in double-digits compared to the South Carolina's three, led by freshman center Phillipina Kyei and junior forward Chanaya Pinto, who both had 12 points.

The Gamecocks' next challenge comes in the form of No. 2 UConn on Monday at noon. Staley said the game is "great for women's basketball" and is ready for the challenge.

The game can be viewed on ESPN.