South Carolina

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

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Diamond Miller took to the floor of the Xfinity Center on 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 watched the senior guard’s every move closely, most with the same question: Would Maryland’s biggest threat, previously listed as a game-time decider, play against South Carolina’s No. 1 after suffering a knee injury in the season opener?

The scene was a detailed exercise in gameplay by Maryland coach Brenda Frese. Just prior to the tip, the team announced that Miller would not be playing. The Terrapins sorely missed them in an 81-56 loss to the reigning national champions.

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

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Boston, carried by a vociferous contingent of Gamecocks fans in College Park, scored six of South Carolina’s first nine points and never faltered, 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) never led, but were just six points behind at halftime after holding South Carolina (2-0) to 13 points in the second quarter. But things went away from them in a second half that edged Maryland 49-30.

Abby Meyers had a game-high 21 points to speed Maryland. She was the only Terrapin in double digits. 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 points.

Things get a little easier for Maryland on Sunday when Fordham is a guest.

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More help is needed on offense

Meyers was a one-woman goalscoring squad early on, 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 made 13 more shots than any other Terrapin.

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

“Basketball is definitely a mixed game,” Meyers said. “Do credit to South Carolina; Your defense is amazing. Your players are very active. they are long I’m definitely a bit dehydrated. That’s a personal thing I need to work on. But credit South Carolina. They played a great defense in the second half.”

Frese expected her team to have their 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 on the elbow and threw an entry pass to Boston in the mail. Fourteen of South Carolina’s first 19 points went in the paint, and it overtook Maryland 55-32. The Gamecocks also had 11 blocked shots.

“Very difficult,” said Frese. “But again . . . this group didn’t flinch. They didn’t hang their heads. They didn’t feel sorry. They just went to the next possession. And as long as we keep playing like this . . . even in the fourth quarter, big as the gap was , we kept smashing possession after possession and just leaving it all out there.”

Things got tense in the third quarter when Maryland freshman Bri McDaniel got vocal while preparing for a court press. Soon after, McDaniel and South Carolina guard Kierra Fletcher had to be separated by officials as both teams walked back and forth during a small scrum.

McDaniel and Fletcher received technical fouls, and Cardoso was called out for an intentional foul. Maryland had crept into the single digits, but the extracurricular activities seemed to energize the Gamecocks, who increased their aggression and soon reduced their lead to 17.

When asked if the moment gave the team a little more juice, Boston gave an emphatic nod.

“Yeah, I think so,” Boston said. “We just said the energy is high for both sides. The crowd got involved, but we just had to understand that we had to open the game. We just figured it out.”

Coach Dawn Staley said, “We just focused a little bit more.”

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