After trailing No. 8 South Carolina all game, No. 4 Maryland women's basketball managed to bring it within six points with 9:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Senior Kaila Charles stepped up to the free throw line with a shot to make it a five point contest, but missed.
Throughout the second half of the top-10 matchup, the Terrapins gave themselves opportunities to make a comeback with stellar defense, but consistently missed scoring chances on the other end, resulting in an 63-54 loss Sunday afternoon.
“I thought we just needed to speed them up and disrupt them,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “When they’re in the flow, their offense looks pretty good, it looks unstoppable. ... I just thought we made it really tough for them.”
Maryland shot just 31.4 percent from the floor in the loss, including a lackluster 12.5 percent from behind the arc. Head coach Brenda Frese’s squad put up 119 points in its season debut, but against much stiffer competition, it never found its offensive groove.
The Gamecocks took the opening tip and jumped out to quick 4-0 lead to put the Terrapins on their heels early.
Maryland evened the score at 8-8 under four minutes in, but then South Carolina ignited for a 6-0 run to regain momentum.
Frese was able to dial up half-court pressure and full-court defensive sets after made baskets, but fouls quickly came into the picture, making it tough to keep up the intensity.
“I thought South Carolina really came in to make their presence known, and they did,” said Frese. “They took control of the glass early, they got to the free throw line and really set the tone.”
At halftime, four Terrapins — Charles, Shakira Austin, Stephanie Jones and Blair Watson — had tallied two fouls each, while South Carolina had committed just four as a team through the first 20 minutes.
At that point, Maryland trailed South Carolina 34-24 and was struggling to battle the size that its opponent was imposing in the paint, having made just four shots in the second quarter.
“I know what we’re capable of,” said Frese. “I think for us, we might have gotten hesitant in that first half when we had foul trouble. But I didn’t think you saw our best defensive effort tonight.”
Fresh out of the half, the Gamecocks picked up right where they left off, going on another quick 4-0 run to force a timeout by Frese.
After the timeout, the Terrapins came to life. With 1:40 remaining in the third quarter, Maryland freshman Diamond Miller took the ball off a change in possession, ran right by everyone on the floor and laid it home to cap off a six-point Maryland run, in which the Terrapins held South Carolina scoreless for two minutes.
Her emphatic yell at the Maryland bench helped bring the Xfinity Center crowd back into the mix and by the end of the third quarter, South Carolina’s lead was shortened to 46-38 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Terrapins couldn’t ever shorten the lead to less than six in the fourth quarter with continued offensive struggles. And though the Gamecocks struggled to score as well, they were able to take advantage of being in the bonus for the final 3:24 of the game.
And with 1:06 remaining, Tyasha Harris was able to sink a three to put South Carolina up 61-48, sealing the deal for the upset and sending fans to the exits.
“We have a lot of lessons to learn out of this,” said Charles. “Our rebounding, just learning how to start fast, start strong, and not let people come in our home court and setting the tempo, setting the pace.
“It’s early, it’s only the second game of the season,” Charles said. “And like I told my teammates, this doesn’t stop our plans of trying to be successful and trying to go as far as we possibly can in the tournament.”
Three things to know
1. This game was a battle of youth on both sides. Maryland and South Carolina came into this season sporting two of the top three recruiting classes in 2019, and the talent showed in the head-to-head matchup.
The Gamecocks were able to tally 32 points from freshmen Brea Beal, Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston, while Maryland got the same amount of points from Faith Masonius, Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu.
2. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston continued her domination. The nation’s No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2019 — who tallied a triple-double in her first college game — finished with 14 points and seven rebounds against Maryland.
Boston was able to dominate in the paint on the offensive end, scoring 60 percent of her field goals, and imposed her will on the defensive end with five blocks. With Austin and Jones in foul trouble for the Terrapins and Olivia Owens sitting out, it was nearly impossible for Maryland to match Boston’s presence in the paint.
3. Maryland struggled shooting the ball in this one. The Terrapins managed to shoot just 31.4 percent from the field and finished two of 16 from long-range.
Terp sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell, who shot 4-for-6 from long range in Maryland’s opener against Wagner, struggled the most from beyond the arc, missing all four of her shots from deep.