No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball opens its 2022-23 home schedule with a highly anticipated matchup with No. 1 South Carolina. The game is set for 6 p.m. at the XFINITY Center in College Park, Maryland and will air on ESPN2.
The Terps are coming off a dominant 88-51 season-opening victory over George Mason on Nov. 7. Senior guard Abby Meyers scored 19 points in her Maryland debut while going 5-for-6 from behind the arc. Maryland star senior guard Diamond Miller left the game in the second quarter and her availability is “day-to-day,” per head coach Brenda Frese.
South Carolina, the reigning national champion, is looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since UConn won four straight from 2013 to 2016. The Gamecocks’ roster is inundated with talent, led by two-time National Player of the Year and senior forward Aliyah Boston. South Carolina dismantled East Tennessee State, 101-31, on Nov. 7 after six players scored in double figures.
If people were looking to see how the Terps fare against elite competition, they will not have to look any further than the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Maryland hopes to pull off the early-season upset over South Carolina in front of an expected raucous crowd on Friday night.
Let’s look at the South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC)
2021-22 record: 36-2 (15-1 SEC)
South Carolina is led by head coach Dawn Staley, who is in her 14th season guiding the program. The two-time National Coach of the Year has cemented South Carolina as a perennial contender with a 366-105 record and five 30-win seasons in her tenure.
Staley won her second national championship last season after a 64-49 victory over UConn at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Under Staley’s leadership, South Carolina has won six SEC regular-season championships and has been ranked in the AP Top 25 every week since Dec. 10, 2012.
She consistently replenishes lost talent, evidenced by her three No. 1 recruiting classes and countless talented players that have enjoyed successful professional careers.
Players to know
Aliyah Boston, senior forward, six foot-five, No. 4 — Boston is arguably the best player in college basketball with a unique skill set. Standing at six-foot-five, Boston has excellent footwork and an array of post moves that allow her to get favorable looks at the rim with ease. Her 16.8 points per game led the Gamecocks last year in their championship-winning season. Last season, Boston broke Sylvia Fowler’s SEC double-double record after posting 18 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Texas A&M.
The reigning National Player of the Year can knock down the 15-to-20-foot mid-range jump shot to keep defenses at bay. Her high basketball IQ allows her to identify approaching double teams and make the correct read to put her team in the best position to score. South Carolina looks to establish Boston early and often, so limiting her effectiveness will be paramount to pull off the upset.
Zia Cooke, senior guard, five foot-nine, No. 1 — The Ohio native is a shifty guard with an ultra-tight handle on the basketball. Cooke recorded 17 points in South Carolina’s season-opening victory while also cashing in on two 3-pointers. She is difficult to guard in transition, as she can find open teammates or get to a spot for her patented mid-range jump shot. The All-SEC first-team honoree is a three-level scorer and is effective at using dribble penetration to create opportunities for Boston and other teammates.
Brea Beal, senior guard, six foot-one, No. 12 — While South Carolina is potent on offense, it is just as formidable on the defensive end of the floor. Beal is one of the best defenders in the country, showing excellent lateral agility and a grasp of how to stifle the opponent’s best player. The former McDonald’s All-American consistently uses her wingspan to get in the passing lane and contest shots. Last season, she limited the opposing team’s best guard below their scoring average 29 times. Her defense was pivotal in the Gamecocks’ championship run, as she limited Louisville’s leading scorer Hailey Van Lith to just nine points.
Size and experience. South Carolina is one of the best teams in the country due to its depth and excellent coaching. The Gamecocks have a tall roster with six players who are six-foot-two or taller. Boston is excellent at using her height to make plays for South Carolina. This South Carolina team is experienced, with nine members of last year’s championship team returning this season. Staley and company have played in several ranked matchups over the years, so they are well-equipped to play against elite competition.
Three-point percentage. In its season-opening 101-31 victory over East Tennessee State, South Carolina shot six-for-23 from behind the arc. Its 26.1 three-point percentage was overlooked because of its dominating performance in the contest. It’s been only one game thus far and South Carolina will have adequate time to shore up this area.
Three things to watch
1. How can Maryland contend with Aliyah Boston in the paint? When attempting to dethrone the Gamecocks, it is pivotal to devise a plan on how to deal with senior forward Aliyah Boston. The NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player stands at six-foot-five, while Maryland’s tallest player is six-foot-three (Diamond Miller). Frese will look to diversify the looks Boston will face, as she is capable of dominating the paint on Friday. The Terps will look to send double teams and sprinkle in periods of zone defense to make up for their lack of interior size.
2. Will Diamond Miller suit up? Following the team’s 88-51 victory over George Mason, many Maryland fans were more concerned about the health of Miller. The senior guard reportedly tweaked her knee in the second quarter and didn’t return. Frese reported that Miller is “day to day” and was held out of the cage as a “precaution.” It will be worth monitoring if the Terps’ leading scorer will play in the contest, as having her in uniform bodes well for their early-season upset bid.
3. What will Meyers do for an encore? When Miller exited the season-opener in the second quarter, Meyers took over as the Terps’ No. 1 scoring option. She recorded 19 points in her first game for the Terps. The Princeton transfer was decisive with the ball and consistently raised up for her silky smooth jump shot. Meyers added six rebounds to her stat line and showed why she figures to be one of the best newcomers in the Big Ten. Meyers’ electric scoring ability will be welcomed in her first regular-season game at the XFINITY Center.