Maryland women’s basketball fell to 1-1 Friday night, with No. 1 South Carolina proving to be too much with senior guard Diamond Miller absent with a knee injury. The Gamecocks began to pull away in the second half and ultimately took the top 20 matchup, 81-56.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game.
South Carolina’s size was too much to handle.
Coming into Friday’s contest, the storylines were the battle between Aliyah Boston and Diamond Miller and how the Terps would be able to withstand the Gamecocks’ tremendous size advantage.
With Miller’s absence announced just prior to tip-off, South Carolina had its way early and often against a Maryland lineup without a player taller than six-foot-three in its rotation.
While the Terps were able to keep the game within reach for 25-plus minutes by drawing fouls and keeping South Carolina cold from deep, the Gamecocks’ giant rebounding advantage eventually came into play.
The Gamecocks finished with an impressive 14 offensive rebounds, with Boston, junior center Kamilla Cardoso and senior forward Laeticia Amihere all finishing with at least three offensive boards.
“Rebounding is who we are. We know it creates separation for us,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said.
Those three players are taller than any player in Maryland’s rotation, and the Terps’ lack of size will continue to be questioned.
South Carolina finished with huge advantages in both rebounding and points in the paint. It had 40 points down low to Maryland’s 20 and more than doubled the Terps in offensive and total rebounds.
Maryland’s defense bent but did not break until late.
At the 7:27 mark of the second quarter, head coach Brenda Frese called a timeout with her squad down 27-14 and unable to stop South Carolina’s towering offense, headlined by the consensus future No. 1 overall pick in Boston. Boston was 4-for-4 from the field at that point.
The Terps locked in on the defensive end thereafter, especially in the turnover department. They would finish the half with a 9-4 advantage in takeaways, which was in large part due to forcing offensive fouls.
When asked about the Terps’ defensive gameplan, Frese thought her squad did a good job of executing it, but South Carolina’s size was just too much.
“I thought the team executed as long as they could,” Frese said. “Their size is amazing. They have seven post players that come off the bench.”
Boston, who was dominating the contest, was forced into two charges, thanks to a stingy, collective defensive effort from the undersized Terps. South Carolina’s star would be benched the rest of the half due to the foul trouble, and Maryland took full advantage. The Terps ended the half on a 12-5 run, keeping the game in reach headed into the second half.
But when one team is doubling the other in total rebounds, the game will eventually fall out of reach — and it did toward the end of the third quarter.
At the 8:21 mark of the third frame, Carolina led 35-30. Just over five minutes later, that score was 55-39.
The Gamecocks re-established their dominance inside, which allowed them to find open shooters on the outside. They made 3-of-5 threes in the quarter, compared to a 4-for-15 mark in the first half.
“The third quarter got away from us, but we worked just as hard as we did the third and fourth quarters between the first and second so I think, you know, we’re just really tough players and we’re gonna get better from this game,” Frese said.
Diamond Miller’s absence loomed large.
There was no doubt that the reigning national champions were the better, deeper and more experienced squad coming into the game. When Miller’s absence was confirmed, the Terps’ path to victory shrunk that much more, but Maryland held its own for a large part of the game.
A lot of the load fell on the shoulders of Abby Meyers to lead the offense against the nation’s best scoring defense, and she excelled.
“Obviously it’s tough not to have Diamond this game. As coach said, she’s definitely a guaranteed 20-point player and we definitely needed her on the boards for sure,” Meyers said.
The senior guard was lights out with 19 points after three quarters, which was almost half of Maryland’s total.
She finished the game with 21 points and five rebounds. No other Terp finished with double digits.
Meyers’ dominance wasn’t sustainable for just about anyone, and as the game drifted late into the second half, Miller’s missing stardom began to be deeply missed.
“Give credit to South Carolina, their defense is amazing. Their players are all really active and they’re long,” Meyers said.
As South Carolina began to slowly pull away into a double-digit lead, the Terps would have loved to have the threat of Miller to counteract Boston’s dominance.
The Gamecocks were too strong, too deep and just too good for the No. 17 team in the nation Friday night.