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No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball falls to No. 1-seed South Carolina in Elite Eight, 86-75

Maryland was outrebounded by 22 in its final game of the season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament Greenville Regional-Maryland vs South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

To advance to the Final Four, second-seeded Maryland women’s basketball had to accomplish something that no team had done in just over one full calendar year — defeat South Carolina.

The Terps had their first chance earlier this season but were routed at home on Nov. 11. A second matchup between the two teams was set in the Elite Eight after both teams handled their business in the previous rounds.

After battling early, Maryland guard Brinae Alexander knocked down a 3-pointer to cut Maryland’s deficit to eight with minutes to go in the third, giving the Terps some momentum to put together a second-half comeback.

But, South Carolina charged down the other end of the court and matched its counterpart’s triple with one of its own from Zia Cooke.

The Terps were never able to recover, and their season ended in a 86-75 loss in Greenville, South Carolina, on Monday night.

The Gamecocks’ perfect season continued, as they look to become the 10th undefeated national champion in Division I women’s basketball history.

Maryland started fast with a pair of layups by guards Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers to jump out to a quick 4-2 lead.

Midway through the first quarter, South Carolina held an 11-5 advantage after senior guard Brea Beal sank a 3-pointer.

But the Terps fought, and a pair of threes from Meyers and senior guard Lavender Briggs helped lead Maryland on a 12-0 run to take a 19-13 lead. After the opening 10 minutes, Maryland had a surprising 21-15 lead over the reigning national champions.

“Super proud of this team. I liked the mentality to come out and punch first. I loved our first quarter, I thought we were really confident, we had South Carolina on the back of their heels,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.

Maryland scored six points off five first-quarter South Carolina turnovers, hounding the SEC juggernaut.

A quick 5-0 run by the Gamecocks to start the second quarter was fueled by two layups by forwards Aaliyah Boston and Victoria Saxton to cut their deficit to one.

Then, South Carolina’s dominant interior presence began to shine. Two layups by forwards Aliyah Boston and Victoria Saxton sparked a quick 5-0 run, cutting Maryland’s lead to one. With under five minutes until halftime, South Carolina reclaimed a 24-23 advantage following a second-chance layup by Boston.

A Cooke 3-pointer and isolation drive to the basket was part of a 9-0 run to give the Gamecocks a 38-30 lead at the half. South Carolina physically dominated in the second quarter, as it outscored the Terps 23-9 in the frame with a dominant 15-5 rebounding advantage.

Miller made a layup to start the third quarter, providing a jolt of confidence for a Maryland team looking to not get too far behind. On the other end, though, the Terps had their hands full.

“We’re really physical because apparently they were getting all of the foul calls. So that just shows that we have heart, we have grit, and just because they’re taller doesn’t mean we can’t bang,” Miller said.

Boston, the SEC Player of the Year and national player of the year candidate, scored on back-to-back possessions to bring South Carolina’ lead to double digits at 42-32.

Maryland briefly charged back with a 6-0 run after a swift post move by Miller trimmed its deficit to six, but not long after, Cooke scored five points of a 7-0 run to give South Carolina a 15-point lead with under two minutes left in the third quarter.

With under 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Maryland sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers found Briggs in transition for a 3-pointer, cutting the Terps’ deficit to 62-50 heading into the final quarter of play.

Maryland outscored South Carolina 25-24 in the final quarter, but it had no impact on the outcome.

Both teams drained two threes apiece in the fourth, with Maryland converting 10 of its 17 shots from the field. The Gamecocks shot 9-for-17 in the fourth quarter.

The Terps’ surprisingly great season ended in a disappointing defeat, but one that was hardly unexpected.

“They upheld the standard with so many question marks, but they set their own stamp. Nobody expected this team to be anywhere near an Elite Eight. Some questioned whether they were even going to make the tournament, so they did that with their body of work with a really competitive non-conference schedule as well as conference schedule,” Frese said. “Then to finish it with an Elite Eight, they put their own stamp and their own mark on the season.”

Three things to know

1. Maryland’s season ended in the Elite Eight. Maryland had its chances to make it interesting but failed to capitalize on its opportunities. The Terps had three players in double figures, led by star Diamond Miller’s 24 points in likely her final game in a Maryland uniform. There’s not much more a team can ask for when it shoots 50% from both the field and three-point range, but it has to be beyond potent to knock off the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

2. South Carolina’s size was too much to handle. It’s been a question that every opposing team has been forced to ponder: how do you deal with the size of South Carolina? The answer remains a mystery, as Maryland struggled to neutralize the size of Boston and others. South Carolina dominated the glass, outrebounding Maryland 48-26, with 25 coming on the offensive end. Boston’s efficiency produced her first double-double (22 points, 10 rebounds) of the NCAA Tournament. Maryland couldn’t contain South Carolina’s interior presence, as the latter scored 46 points in the paint.

3. What’s next for Diamond Miller? Miller has enjoyed one of the best careers in program history over her four years with the Terps. With the loss to South Carolina, Miller will be forced to entertain the thought of returning to Maryland or entering the 2023 WNBA Draft, where she is projected to be a top pick. She will have 48 hours to make that decision, according to the league’s rules.