University of Maryland women's basketball team loses to South Carolina, 63-54, at Xfinity Stadium.
Minutes before a top-10 matchup with South Carolina, the Maryland women’s basketball team received its rings to commemorate last year’s Big Ten title. The Gamecocks did not allow the celebration to continue on the court.
The No. 4 Terps suffered their first loss of the season Sunday, falling 63-54 to No. 8 South Carolina inside the Xfinity Center. The Gamecocks never trailed in avenging last season’s 85-61 loss to the Terps, when Maryland outscored them 55-26 in the first half in a game South Carolina coach Dawn Staley referred to Sunday as “a true embarrassment on all levels.” Maryland senior Blair Watson, who scored 20 points in that matchup, was limited to five Sunday, and Stephanie Jones (Aberdeen) scored only four Sunday after finishing with 18 last year. Maryland missed 40 of its 55 shots over the final three quarters, leading to a 54-38 rebounding advantage for the Gamecocks.
“I thought South Carolina really came in ready to make their presence known and did," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "They took control of the glass early, got to the free-throw line and really set the tone. For us to shoot under 30% and be outrebounded is really uncharacteristic of our play.
“You didn’t get to see how talented this team is on the offensive end.”
The Terps (1-1) entered halftime having missed 17 of their previous 21 shots, with seven failed 3-point attempts among them. The second half opened with another as Maryland missed five straight shots to start the third quarter, with South Carolina going on an eight-point run that bridged halftime and built its lead to 14.
Maryland cut the deficit to single digits when Kaila Charles drove for a layup and was fouled on a make, igniting the announced Xfinity Center crowd of 7,447 as her free throw cut South Carolina’s lead to 40-31. A Watson jumper with three minutes to play in the third quarter brought the Terps within eight, and Diamond Miller’s subsequent layup made the score 44-38, but Maryland failed to score in the final 1:40 of the quarter and trailed by eight entering the final period.
It quickly reduced that, with Charles fouled on another layup 10 seconds into the fourth quarter, though she missed the free-throw attempt. The game’s margin came at the free-throw line, with the Gamecocks (2-0) making 24 of their 30 attempts, while Maryland went 8-for-12 at the stripe.
Tyasha Harris’ 3-pointer, South Carolina’s first in nine tries, with 1:07 to play that pushed the Gamecocks’ lead to 13. The Terps missed 12 straight 3-point attempts before the final minute, unable to rally even as South Carolina weathered a scoring drought of nearly four minutes in the fourth quarter before two Aliya Boston free throws with 3:29 to play.
Boston, a 6-foot-5 freshman who wasn’t on the Gamecocks’ roster for Maryland’s victory in this matchup last season, scored eight of South Carolina’s first 10 points and 14 overall. With the game tied at eight with 6:17 left in the first quarter, Boston’s layup started a 6-0 run that provided the Gamecocks with a lead they held for the rest of the afternoon. She added five blocks and seven rebounds.
“She’s blossoming,” Staley said. "She’s a player who has some girth to her, some height to her. Just in recruiting her, I didn’t realize she was that much of a shot-blocker. … She has a knack to it.”
Frese attributed much of her team’s 12-for-32 effort on layups to Boston’s presence inside.
“She just impacted so many shots when we got into the paint,” she said. “She was the anchor defensively that they needed and, I think, probably got in our heads."
The first quarter ended with the Terps down 18-15, having been outrebounded 11-4 while committing six fouls to South Carolina’s one. After neither team scored in the second quarter’s first two minutes, the Gamecocks used the period to take a 34-24 lead into halftime while Maryland went nearly four minutes without a made basket. Freshman Ashley Owusu and Charles were the only Terps with more than five first-half points and ended the game as the team’s leading scorers, with 17 and 11, respectively.
Last year’s victory in Columbia, South Carolina, came amid a 12-game winning streak to open Maryland’s season, one that ultimately ended in the Terps’ fourth Big Ten regular-season title in five years in the conference and thus Sunday’s pregame ceremony.
Sunday’s result means this season won’t start with the same run of victories, but Maryland returns all five starters from a team that earned a conference championship. The loss aside, the possibility of another remains.
“We have a lot of lessons to learn out of this," Charles said. "It’s early. It’s only the second game of the season. This doesn’t stop our plan of trying to be successful and trying to go as far as we possibly can in the [NCAA] tournament.”