No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball had a number of struggles and ultimately fell flat in its 63-54 loss to No. 8 South Carolina.
The Gamecocks came out firing early and were able to keep the Terrapins from leading at any point during the game. A mixture of poor play from Maryland and key composure from South Carolina made the difference in this battle of top women’s basketball programs.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s top-10 matchup.
South Carolina’s experience at point guard shined through
The Gamecocks were able to utilize the experience of point guard Tyasha Harris in this big-time matchup as the senior finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 38 minutes of action.
“We have an experienced point guard who has been around the block a few times,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Obviously the young players have listened to her. She utilized her experience of being in big games, controlling our team out there on the floor, and I just thought she did what a senior point guard is supposed to.”
The Terrapins played freshman guard Ashley Owusu for 37 minutes in just the second game of her career, and she managed to lead the team with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Down the stretch though, Harris was able to command the young team that South Carolina employed, while Owusu continues to work on her presence as a leader and her decision-making.
Kaila Charles is still working into her new role
Charles has been growing into to her natural wing position, which has required focus on the defensive side of her game. Sliding down to the three and four spots — she played more two and three last year — have forced her to guard against more size than she has battled in the past, especially in the post.
“Being down low, I want to make sure that I can stop my [opponent] to help our team,” said Charles. “If that means blocking shots, or making the right plays on defense, I’m going to do it.”
Charles managed to come up with five rebounds and three blocks against South Carolina, and she even took the opening tip for Maryland against 6’5 freshman Aliyah Boston.
Even with the positive defensive effort, Charles did rack up four fouls, and the Terrapins will need her to be more cautious moving forward so she can avoid foul trouble.
Maryland lost big on the boards
South Carolina out-rebounded Maryland 54-38, with freshman guard Brea Beal leading all players with 10 rebounds of her own. A total of 22 rebounds came from Gamecock freshmen.
“The young players we have, they’ve played at the highest level,” Staley said. “They’ve played for USA Basketball, they’ve won gold medals, so they understand the stage that they were going to play in and was just a different show. They are highly competitive individuals. They’re driven individuals.”
The Gamecocks managed to pull down 38 defensive rebounds, as well as 16 boards on the offensive end. Being able to generate possessions and keep your own alive are key, and for Maryland, when you shoot 31.4 percent from the field you need all the possessions you can get.
There won’t be many other teams that can match the height of the Terps throughout the season, but correcting the lack of aggressiveness on the boards will be key moving forward.
There is plenty of basketball left to play
For Maryland, while this loss may look bad and be deflating, there is plenty of basketball yet to be played.
“Like I told [the team] in the locker room, we played this game last year and beat them by 24 points and they went further in the postseason than we did,” Frese said. “So it’s really your mentality coming out of [this game] for your season ... just using the body of work to get better come March.”
The Terrapins will face a non-conference schedule of teams that could present challenges, but none of which that are at the same level as South Carolina. Having a tough contest this early in the season allows for both teams to learn and prepare in ways that lesser competition can’t provide.