Following a 91-58 win over Albany in the season opener on Friday, Maryland women’s basketball is back in action Monday against defending national champion South Carolina.
The No. 15 Terps started slow but eventually blew by the Great Danes, using a 25-0 run in the second quarter to pull away. Blair Watson was one of six Maryland players and led the way with 16 points. Brianna Fraser and Stephanie Jones both had their first career double-doubles; Jones finished with a crazy line of 11 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and six steals.
The Gamecocks started their title defense with a 99-31 win over Alabama State. South Carolina was dominant throughout, holding the Hornets to 20 percent shooting while forcing 29 turnovers.
Despite being picked to win the SEC championship for the fifth year in a row, South Carolina is not as deep as it’s been in the past. A’ja Wilson is still dominating in the paint, but center Alaina Coates graduated and guards Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis declared for the WNBA draft.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0)
2016-17 record: 33-4, 14-2 SEC, national champions
Head coach Dawn Staley has had one of the most successful careers in women’s basketball history. She’s built South Carolina from the ground up, and has a 222-80 record in ten years in Columbia. Before heading to South Carolina, she spent eight years at Temple, where she went 172-80 and led the Owls to six NCAA tournaments.
Her accomplishments don’t stop there. Staley starred at Virginia from 1989-1992, where she was a two-time National Player of the Year. She went on to have a decorated professional career as a six-time WNBA all-star and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Players to know
A’ja Wilson, senior, forward, 6’5, No. 22. Wilson is the two-time defending SEC Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-American. She averaged 17.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the season opener. She was the top recruit in the Class of 2014, and is a big reason why the Gamecocks have ascended into college basketball’s elite, going 101-9 in her time on campus.
Lindsey Spann, redshirt senior, guard, 5’6, No. 11. Spann is a graduate transfer from Penn State who averaged 10.5 points per game for the Nittany Lions last season. She averaged 13 points a game both her freshman and sophomore year, but took more of a backseat role to Teniya Page in 2016-17. She scored 16 points and went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in the season opener.
Tyasha Harris, sophomore, guard, 5’10, No. 52. Harris averaged 5.6 points and a team-leading 3.2 assists per game last season. She started the final 27 games of last year at point guard, and was named to the SEC all-freshman team. She had nine points and four assists against Alabama State.
Defense. Last season, South Carolina finished in the top 25 in opposing points per game, field-goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and blocked shots. Defense has been a staple of Staley’s teams at South Carolina, and this could be the toughest one Maryland faces all season.
Forcing turnovers. The Gamecocks forced just 15 turnovers per game last season, which was 216th in the nation. The Terps committed 21 turnovers Friday night, so South Carolina may be able to use its strong defense to take advantage of some sloppy Maryland possessions.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland get off to a better start? The Terps can’t afford another start like the one they had Friday against Albany. Commit 10 turnovers in the opening frame on Monday, and they’ll dig themselves into an insurmountable hole. Following the win over the Great Danes, Brenda Frese said that Maryland shouldn’t have any trouble being ready to play against the defending national champions. It’d better hope that’s the case.
2. How does Maryland contain A’ja Wilson? At this point, you can only hope to limit her. In the Gamecocks four losses, last season, she still averaged 18 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 60 percent shooting. Either Brianna Fraser and Stephanie Jones will probably guard Wilson, but neither has experience against a top player in the country. Kaila Charles could also rotate in, but her length is more effective on the perimeter.
3. How will the rotation change against a better team? Maryland’s rotation was pretty balanced Friday night. No one played more than 27 minutes, and seven players got 20 or more. Balanced rotations are common in a blowout, but there could be some tough choices ahead Monday night. Frese relied heavily on her starters last year in close games, and Monday’s game is close, it could be an indicator of which players she’ll rely on in crunch time.
South Carolina wins, 78-65.