Despite a late rally, defending national champion South Carolina was too much to handle for No. 15 Maryland women’s basketball Monday night, as the No. 4 Gamecocks bested the Terps, 94-86.
South Carolina took control early and didn’t let Maryland back in it until the fourth quarter, when a lead that was once 26 points was trimmed all the way to three in the final minute.
Kaila Charles was a monster, finishing with a career-high 31 points. The sophomore guard took over in the second half, scoring 27 points after intermission and 19 in the fourth quarter.
However, the Terps had no answer for A’ja Wilson, who finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds. Tyasha Harris was a pest all night, especially late, and she finished with 21 points and nine assists.
Maryland’s impressive fourth quarter whittled down the statistical gap that existed between the two teams for much of the game. South Carolina shot 46 percent for the game compared to 43 percent for the Terps. It also only outrebounded Maryland 41-36, but the Terps had over half of their rebounds in the final frame.
Maryland looked better than it did to start Friday’s game against Albany, but it happened to be playing a much better team.
The teams traded threes on their opening possessions, but the Gamecocks went on a 10-0 run to take a 13-3 lead. The Terps looked flustered by South Carolina’s defense, committing three turnovers in their first five possessions. It didn’t help that everything went right for the Gamecocks offense in the first quarter. They shot 63 percent from the field, and hit shots from all over the floor.
South Carolina led 29-13 after the first quarter, but it felt like more.
Maryland started the second quarter better, at one point going on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 34-26. But the Gamecocks answered, and extended the lead back out to 15, leading 51-36 at halftime. South Carolina, always had a response, whether it be an easy layup, a putback off an offensive rebound, or giving the ball to Wilson and letting her get fouled.
The Terps double-teamed the 6’5 forward early, but that strategy was quickly taken out after South Carolina hit their first three three-pointers. Wilson went to work after that, and it seemed like she got fouled every time she touched the ball in the second quarter.
The Gamecocks pulled further ahead early in the third quarter. Wilson hit a jumper to push the lead to 61-41 with 4:38 to go, and Harris followed that up with a three on the next possession. South Carolina’s lead grew to 26, on a Cliney layup with 2:20 to go.
Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley decided to have mercy on Maryland and took Wilson out of the game, and the Terps looked like a much better team for the final two minutes of the quarter. Charles had back-to-back layups to end the quarter, but Maryland still trailed, 73-54.
The Terps continued to fight in the fourth quarter, and finally got enough stops to make the game close. A layup from Spann made it 80-60 with 6:29 to go, but three minutes later Maryland cut the lead to 83-73 on a Confroy three. The Terps continued to fight, and a layup from Lewis cut the lead to 87-84 with 38 seconds left.
But on the next possession, Harris weaved through traffic for the first Gamecocks basket in over six minutes. She hit the following free throw to give South Carolina 90-84 lead. Harris scored the Gamecocks’ last four points from the foul line to seal the victory.
Three things to know
- This wasn’t a contest until late. South Carolina took a 10-point lead with 7:07 to go in the first quarter, and led for double digits for the majority of the game. Maryland struggled to get into a flow offensively, and the combination of Wilson and Alexis Jennings were too much inside on the other end. The Gamecocks were the better team coming in, and the Terps didn’t put up much of a challenge until the fourth quarter, when it was ultimately too late. This looks like a resilient team that will fight until the final whistle.
- A’ja Wilson is really good. The two-time SEC Player of the Year played up to her reputation Monday night. If Maryland stopped her initial shot, she got an offensive rebound and finished. If the Terps stepped out to guard her on the perimeter, she would hit a mid-range jumper. Wilson’s dominance allowed her teammates get open shots and spread the floor, which was too much to handle.
- Kaila Charles scored ALL THE POINTS in the second half. While Wilson was the best player on the court for the first three quarters, the final frame belonged to Charles. She scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, and South Carolina had no answer for her on the other end. Much like the rest of the country found out how good, Destiny Slocum was against UConn last year, it found out how good Charles is on Monday night.