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Terps

Without Diamond Miller, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball falls to No. 1 South Carolina, 81-56

COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland women’s basketball team’s bid to upset No. 1 South Carolina might have seemed like it was over before it even began after news broke that star shooting guard Diamond Miller would not play.

For one half, the No. 17 Terps kept up with the reigning national champions. But then the Gamecocks remembered their pedigree and used their size advantage to sail to an 81-56 victory Friday night before an announced 9,244 at Xfinity Center.

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The loss dropped Maryland to 1-1 for the third time in the last four seasons. But coach Brenda Frese took some solace in the team trailing by just six points at halftime.

“This group didn’t flinch,” she said. “They didn’t hang their heads. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They just went to the next possession. As we continue to play like that, I thought even in the fourth quarter, as big as the gap was, they just continued to keep scrapping possession by possession and [were] leaving it all out there.”

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The result wasn’t terribly shocking considering the pregame news that Miller would be unavailable. The senior shooting guard re-injured the right knee for which she underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a stress fracture in the patella just 25 seconds into the second quarter of Monday’s 88-51 season-opening win at George Mason.

After that game, Frese had held out some hope that Miller (11 points and two blocks in nine minutes) would be able to suit up against South Carolina. But Miller did not practice much during the week, forcing Frese’s hand.

“Obviously, it’s tough not to have Diamond in this game,” said senior shooting guard Abby Meyers, the only player to reach double digits in scoring with a game-high 21 points. “She’s a guaranteed 20-point player, and we definitely need her on the boards. But for me coming in, I’ve always been that offensive scorer, and I know for my role, it’s to keep shooting no matter the outcome. So that’s what I’m going to continue to do, and I’m going to keep working on that.”

Sophomore shooting guard Shyanne Sellers, the Big Ten’s Sixth Player of the Year last winter, moved into the starting lineup in place of Miller and finished with nine points, five rebounds and three rebounds before fouling out with 4:06 left in regulation and limping because of an ankle injury. But the Terps clearly missed their offensive catalyst, their defensive anchor and emotional leader.

Maryland guard Abby Meyers shoots over South Carolina forward Victaria Saxton during the first half of Friday night's game in College Park. Meyers scored 16 of her game-high 21 points in the first half and collected six rebounds, but she was the only Maryland player to reach double-digits in points.

“I thought Diamond not being in the game, they lose an experienced player,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “She can easily give them 20 [points], she can easily impact the game on both sides of the basketball. I thought they did what they needed to do, and it worked for almost 25, 27 minutes of the game.”

Miller’s absence was especially noticeable on the boards where South Carolina flexed its muscles, outrebounding the Terps 55-32. During one stretch in the first quarter, the Gamecocks threw 6-foot-7 junior center Kamilla Cardoso, the 6-5 Boston and 6-4 senior forward Laeticia Amihere on the floor against a Maryland lineup fronted by the 6-2 Sellers.

To thwart South Carolina’s size advantage on the interior, the Terps frequently tasked three players with crowding the middle and leaving only two players on the perimeter. At times, it seemed as if they were daring the Gamecocks to take long-range shots rather than dump the ball down to Boston or Cardoso.

That strategy slowed South Carolina in the first half, but the Terps continued to go back to the well in the second. Boston racked up 16 points and 13 rebounds, Cardoso amassed 13 points and five rebounds, and Amihere added 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks to help the Gamecocks outscore Maryland 40-20 in the paint. Senior shooting guard Zia Cooke led South Carolina with 18 points, three assists and two steals.

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The Gamecocks also blocked 11 shots. That might have contributed to the Terps shooting just 30.3% (20-for-66).

South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) hauls in a rebound in front of Maryland guard/forward Mila Reynolds (15) as guard Kierra Fletcher (41) watches during the third quarter Friday night.

The game appeared to turn with 3:11 left in the third quarter with South Carolina leading 46-38. Terps freshman shooting guard Bri McDaniel and Gamecocks graduate student shooting guard Kierra Fletcher got tangled up, and after the play was whistled dead, the pair exchanged a few pleasantries that forced officials to separate both teams.

Both players were assessed technical fouls, and Cardoso was charged with an intentional foul. The fracas seemed to ignite South Carolina, which closed out the period on a 16-5 run to wield a 62-43 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.

“I think we were just saying that the energy’s high from both sides,” Boston said. “The crowd was really into it. But we just needed to understand that we needed to open up the game.”

Maryland exchanged early blows with the Gamecocks, drawing to within 15-12 with 3:04 left in the first quarter. But the Terps went cold for the remainder of the period and the first 1:21 of the second quarter.

When Meyers connected on a layup with 8:39 left in the frame, South Carolina had opened up a 21-14 lead. The team used back-to-back 3-pointers by Cooke and senior shooting guard Brea Beal to assume a 27-14 advantage — its largest of the first half.

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Maryland guard/forward Faith Masonius (13) fights for a loose ball with South Carolina forward Laeticia Amihere during the first quarter of Friday night's game in College Park.

But the Gamecocks did not score a point in the last 3:12 of the quarter, and Maryland got layups from Meyers and freshman point guard Gia Cooke to trail just 32-26 at halftime.

Staley wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with No. 42. That is the jersey number of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia on drug charges despite being “wrongfully detained,” according to U.S. officials.

“We have to stand in the gap because it is unimaginable,” she said. “I’m just trying to keep a positive outlook on it and keep her name out there. I know our government is doing something about it, but there’s two to tango, and I just don’t think the other side is hearing just yet. But we’re praying that our waymaker makes a way for Brittany to come home to her family and all of us who love her.”

The game was a popular draw. Among those in attendance were Hall of Fame coach Chris Weller, 2006 national champions Marissa Coleman and Crystal Langhorne and 2017 first-team All-America forward Brionna Jones.

Fordham at No. 17 Maryland

Sunday, 1 p.m.

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Stream: BTN-Plus


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