Maryland women can’t hang with top-ranked South Carolina


Diamond Miller stepped onto the Xfinity Center floor Friday night and went through her normal pregame routine, warming up with teammates, shooting around the horn, dribbling and crossing sideline to sideline and going through team stretches. Fans kept a close watch on the senior guard’s every move, most with some form of the same question: Would Maryland’s top threat, previously listed as a game-time decision, play against No. 1 South Carolina after suffering a knee injury in the season opener?

The scene was a detailed exercise in gamesmanship by Maryland Coach Brenda Frese. Shortly before tip-off, the team announced Miller wouldn’t play. The Terrapins sorely missed her in an 81-56 loss to the reigning national champions.

The Gamecocks continued to look every bit like the best team in the country, never trailing as they followed the lead of Aliyah Boston, who swept the sport’s most prestigious awards last spring and is widely expected to be the first player chosen in April’s WNBA draft.

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Boston, buoyed by a vocal contingent of Gamecocks fans in College Park, scored six of South Carolina’s first nine points and never relented, finishing with 16 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and a block. She made seven of her eight shots from the field.

The No. 17 Terrapins (1-1), though they never led, only trailed by six at halftime after holding South Carolina (2-0) to 13 points in the second quarter. But things got away from them in a second half in which Maryland was outscored 49-30.

Abby Meyers had a game-high 21 points to pace Maryland. She was the only Terrapin in double figures. Shyanne Sellers, who suffered a late ankle injury, had nine.

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Zia Cooke scored 18 points to lead South Carolina, Kamilla Cardoso added 13, and Laeticia Amihere finished with 10.

Things get a bit easier for Maryland on Sunday when it hosts Fordham.

Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s loss:

More help needed on offense

Meyers was a one-woman scoring crew early, but she didn’t get much help from her teammates. The Terps shot just 30.3 percent from the field as a team, and Meyers took 13 more shots than any other Terrapin.

South Carolina’s defensive adjustments played a role in Maryland’s second-half struggles, especially the way the Gamecocks keyed on Meyers, who scored just five points in the second half.

“Basketball’s definitely a streaky game,” Meyers said. “Give credit to South Carolina; their defense is amazing. Their players are really active. They’re long. I definitely dried up a little bit. That’s a personal thing I’ve got to work on. But credit South Carolina. They played great defense in that second half.”

Frese expected her team would have its hands full with South Carolina’s size. She wasn’t wrong. At one point, the Gamecocks had Cardoso (6-foot-7), Boston (6-5) and Amihere (6-4) on the floor together. The Gamecocks ran certain sets with Cardoso at the elbow lobbing an entry pass to Boston in the post. Fourteen of South Carolina’s first 19 points came in the paint, and it outrebounded Maryland 55-32. The Gamecocks also had 11 blocked shots.

“Very difficult,” Frese said. “But again . . . this group didn’t flinch. They didn’t hang their heads. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They just went to the next possession. And as long as we continue to play like that . . . even in the fourth quarter, as big of a gap as there was, we just continued to keep scrapping possession by possession and just leaving it all out there.”

Things got chippy in the third quarter when Maryland freshman Bri McDaniel became vocal while setting up for a full-court press. Soon thereafter, McDaniel and South Carolina guard Kierra Fletcher had to be separated by officials as both teams engaged in some back-and-forth during a small scrum.

McDaniel and Fletcher were given technical fouls, and Cardoso was called for an intentional foul. Maryland had crept within single digits, but the extracurriculars seemed to energize the Gamecocks, who upped their aggression and soon pushed their lead back to 17.

Boston nodded emphatically when asked whether the moment gave the team a little more juice.

“Yeah, I think so,” Boston said. “We were just saying that the energy’s high for both sides. The crowd was feeding into it, but we just needed to understand that we needed to open up the game. We just figured it out.”

Said Coach Dawn Staley: “We just focused a little bit more.”

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