Cooke overcame an injury to his left eye during the Gamecocks' loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday. He had a deep cut over his left eye and was forced to wear protective goggles against the Lions. The injury did not seem to affect his vision as the senior was active on both ends with four steals, three assists, three rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes.
"One of the things we try and sell to our young guys with the way we chart things, Malik Cooke is doing all the dirty work stats too," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "Saturday he scored really well and was terrific offensively (but) he also led us in deflections. There is a direct correlation between that. His presence on those things is really important for this basketball game."
Horn was impressed by the energy the Gamecocks displayed. They forced 26 turnovers, with seven of those coming on the first eight possessions. South Carolina only committed 10 turnovers, helping it outscore the Lions 30-6 on points off turnovers.
"We challenged them that we have to get off to a good start, and the best way to do that is to make sure you are active defensively and you get to the offensive glass," Horn said. "You can control your defensive activity and your work on the glass, and we really harped on that for the last two days."
Eric Smith, Cooke and Gill connected on consecutive 3-pointers during a 13-3 run by South Carolina to open the second half that pushed the lead to as many as 24 points in a game the Gamecocks never trailed. The Lions never got closer than 12 points over the final 20 minutes.
South Carolina shot 13 of 29 from the field in the second half after making 7 of 26 in the first half. Horn thought the shot selection was better and the Gamecocks did not look ahead with a week off before hosting Wofford next week.
"These are always dangerous games just before Christmas and the break is on the other side of it," Horn said. "The things that we wanted to focus on, to our guys' credit, they came out and did well. All in all, a collective team effort."
Elgin Bailey led the Lions with 15 points.
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|Stephen F. Austin||18-0||-||28-6|
|Sam Houston State||12-6||6||18-16|