Maryland women’s basketball starts strong but wilts in 86-75 loss to unbeaten South Carolina in Elite Eight

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GREENVILLE, S.C. — Brenda Frese did her best Ric Flair impression the day before her Maryland women’s basketball team faced reigning national champion and undefeated South Carolina in Monday’s Elite Eight matchup.

“To be the best, you’ve got to continue to keep playing the best,” the 21-year coach said Sunday. “I think they bring the best out of you.”


Frese’s remarks looked prophetic after the No. 2 seed Terps hung tough in the first half. Alas, the overall No. 1 seed Gamecocks were just too big, too strong and too deep as they secured an 86-75 victory in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight Monday night before an announced 11,144 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Senior shooting guard Diamond Miller scored a team-high 24 points and added five rebounds, two blocks and two assists, and senior shooting guard Abby Meyers chipped in 14 points, five rebounds and two assists before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. But their showings weren’t enough as Maryland (28-7) suffered a loss in its first Elite Eight appearance since 2015. That was also the last time the program had reached the Final Four after that squad, a No. 1 seed, defeated second-seeded Tennessee, 58-48, in Spokane, Washington.


“I think we fought hard today,” said Miller, who is projected to be a top-three pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. “Supposedly we’re undersized, but we just lost to the defending reigning champs by 11 and other teams that had bigger posts than us are getting blown out by 30. I don’t believe in moral victories of any sort, but I think we fought hard.”

After the Terps carried a 21-15 lead into the second quarter, they were outscored 71-54 in the final three periods by South Carolina (36-0), which extended its winning streak to 42 straight games. Senior power forward Aliyah Boston, the Associated Press Player of the Year, amassed 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and senior shooting guard Zia Cooke dropped 18 points and eight rebounds to ensure that their team would not absorb their first loss since March 6, 2022.

South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, center, is defended by Maryland's Diamond Miller, left, during the fourth quarter of an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight contest on Monday in Greenville, South Carolina.

Rewarded with their fifth Final Four since 2015 and third in a row, the Gamecocks will face No. 2 seed Iowa (30-6) on Friday in Dallas. With national titles in 2017 and 2022, they seek to become the first team to repeat as NCAA champions since UConn won three in a row from 2014 to 2016.

Like waves pounding the shore, the bigger Gamecocks — whose 14 players averaged 72.9 inches in height, which ranked second only to Kansas State’s 73.1-inch average — were relentless on the boards. They outrebounded their opponent for the 35th game this season as they outmuscled Maryland, 48-26, including 25-7 on the offensive glass. They turned those offensive rebounds into 23 second-chance points.

Maryland challenged the Gamecocks from the opening tip, getting back-to-back layups from Miller and Meyers. Even after South Carolina used a 9-1 run to assume an 11-5 lead with 5:58 left in the first quarter, the Terps replied with a 14-2 burst over a 3:05 span for a 19-13 advantage.

“I thought you saw the mentality to come out and punch first,” Frese said. “I loved our first quarter. I thought we were really confident. We had South Carolina on the back of their heels, really having to adjust to our style of play.”

The wheels though began to fall off in the second quarter. The Gamecocks scored the period’s first five points, and after senior power forward Faith Masonius converted a layup with 8:17 remaining, Maryland slipped into a 3:42 drought that didn’t end until Meyers hit a layup.

South Carolina's Zia Cooke dribbles while Maryland's Diamond Miller, at bottom right, defends in the first half of an Elite Eight game of the NCAA Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, on Monday.

South Carolina closed out the final 4:11 with a 14-5 spurt for a 38-30 halftime lead as fouls took a toll on the Terps. Starters Miller, Masonius and sophomore shooting guard Shyanne Sellers and senior shooting guard Brinae Alexander took seats on the bench in the stanza after picking up two fouls each.

“I thought the game was lost in the second quarter,” Frese said. “The foul trouble, the amount of time throughout the game that they were in the bonus really impacted our play. But you can see their size, their length, their depth wears you out as the game continues on.”

The Gamecocks opened the third quarter with a 10-6 burst for a 48-36 lead with 5:37 remaining. Even after the Terps scored six straight points to halve the deficit, South Carolina responded with a 14-8 spurt over the last 3:42 to carry a 62-50 advantage into the final frame.

Meyers eventually fouled out with 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter after picking up her fourth and fifth fouls in an 8-second stretch, and Masonius joined her at the 4:20 mark after collecting her fourth and fifth fouls in a 31-second span.

The Terps’ loss concluded what has been a testament to perseverance and revival. Less than a full year after losing 85% of their offense through the graduation of shooting guard Katie Benzan and small forward Chloe Bibby and the transfers of five players in center Angel Reese (St. Frances), point guard Ashley Owusu, power forward Mimi Collins, shooting guard Taisiya Kozlova and shooting guard Channise Lewis, they re-stocked the roster with transfers and freshmen around a core of Miller, Masonius and Sellers and enjoyed their deepest run in the postseason in eight years.

“It was such a satisfying season with so many question marks going into the year,” Frese said. “But because these guys believed and stayed the course, you were able to see some pretty magical things.”