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South Carolina’s Zia Cooke flashed Steph Curry impression in career night

(Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Zia Cooke led South Carolina women’s basketball to a comeback 68-51 win Monday with a career night against Georgia.

The Gamecocks trailed at halftime, but Cooke – who went 3-for-11 in the first half – took over in the second. She finished with a career-high 31 points and was the only South Carolina player to reach double digits.

“She took great shots. She didn’t force anything,” Staley said. “I just wanted her to continue to shoot the ball. Don’t second guess. Don’t jab. If you feel it, go ahead and shoot it.”

While Cooke started the game 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, she didn’t get discouraged. She hit four of her next seven 3-point shots.

At one point in the fourth quarter, when she nailed yet another 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the game, she turned around and celebrated before the ball even hit the net.

“Coach kept telling me to keep shooting my shot, so I listened to her,” Cooke said. “It just felt good.

“I actually practiced doing that because I watched Steph Curry do it a lot. Sometimes in the gym I just play around and do that, and it felt as good (tonight).”

The senior has experienced exponential growth this season, averaging 15.3 points per game after averaging just 10.7 points per game last season. She currently sits first on the team in scoring, and was third on the team last year.

“We held two of their go-to players down, and Zia Cooke just got loose,” Georgia head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “She put her team on her back.”

For Cooke, the turnaround has been influenced by former teammates Destanni Henderson, who now plays for the Indiana Fever, and Tyasha Harris, who plays for the Dallas Wings.

“I definitely think I’ve got to put my big girl pants on and bring it every single day wherever coach needs me to be at to get it done,” Cooke told The Greenville News. “Henny was one that always pushed it down the floor, so I take that with me to know I always have to push it down, and with Ty I took making sure you see the floor and the people around you and make sure you’re getting your teammates open.

“I know I’m going to have to play a big role and mentally be in a great space because at this point, all of us seniors have to lead the ones under us.”