Depleted Terps put up a fight but can’t handle No. 1 South Carolina

Published on: November 11, 2022 11:14 PM EST|Updated on: November 12, 2022 1:17 PM EST

A chippy, boisterous home opener against defending national champion South Carolina provided a unique early-season opportunity for coach Brenda Frese to learn about the remade Maryland women’s basketball team.

In front of almost 10,000 fans at XFINITY Center, the largest crowd in nearly four years, the Terrapins fell 81-56 to the No. 1 Gamecocks in a game that was close until the middle of the third quarter.

The game turned after a scuffle between Terps freshman guard Bri McDaniel and South Carolina graduate transfer Kierra Fletcher resulted in both players receiving technical fouls. From there, an eight-point Maryland deficit ballooned by the end of the quarter to 19.

South Carolina cruised to a 25-point victory that marked its third consecutive win in the annual series with Maryland.

But for Frese, there were many positives to seeing a Terps squad that played five transfers and three freshmen come together to put up a (somewhat literal) fight against the veteran, physical Gamecocks.

“You don’t usually, typically like to see technicals, but you know what? In this instance, I’ve got to take it,” Frese said.

“They didn’t back down to South Carolina. And when you have a team like that, the future will bode well for us because I thought they were really confident.”

Terps star guard Diamond Miller, who warmed up with the team and participated in a pregame ceremony honoring her 1,000th point, was sidelined with a knee injury she sustained in Maryland’s season-opening win Monday against George Mason. Without the 6-foot-3-inch presence of Miller, the Terps were especially overmatched in the post.

South Carolina outscored the Terps in the paint 40-20 and recorded 11 blocks from seven different players. As is their signature, the Gamecocks also outrebounded the Terps 55-32.

“Rebounding is what we do,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “That is who we are, something that we’ve worked on every single day. We know that that creates separation for us.”

South Carolina was led by reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston (6-feet-5) and fifth-year center Kamilla Cardoso (6-feet-7), whose 29 points on 13-of-15 shooting reflected the often un-guardable size advantage the Gamecocks had on the Terps.

“I thought the team executed as well as they could have,” Frese said. “I thought they were fronting [Boston] all night. She scored 16 tonight, but I mean, she really had to work to be able to get her points.”

Boston is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the next WNBA draft and many consider her to be franchise-altering talent; the Indiana Fever on Friday won a lottery to get that first overall selection.

As the Terps continue to forge a new identity following an offseason makeover in which they brought in nine new players, Meyers has emerged as an early offensive leader.

Against South Carolina’s vaunted defense, which held East Tennessee State to 31 points in Monday’s season opener, the transfer from Princeton took over as Maryland’s most reliable scoring option, tallying 16 of Maryland’s 26 first-half points.

Though she cooled off considerably with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting in the second half, Meyers nonetheless finished as the only Terp to reach double digits in scoring. Through two games, played almost entirely without Miller, the Potomac native leads Maryland in scoring and minutes.

“Obviously, it’s tough not to have Diamond in this game,” Meyers said. “As coach said, she’s definitely a guaranteed 20-point player, and we definitely need her on the boards for sure. But for me, coming in, I’ve always been that offensive scorer, and I know my role is to keep shooting, no matter the outcome.”

Injuries have bitten Maryland early this season, further complicating the process of building a cohesive squad out of a brand new roster. In addition to Miller, the Terps were without sophomore forward Emma Chardon, who was also injured during the George Mason game.

Then, with four minutes left in the game, sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers had to be helped off the court after what Frese said was an ankle injury. She had no additional updates and said Sellers would be evaluated.

That leaves senior Faith Masonius as potentially the only healthy player who appeared in a game for Maryland last season, so the Terps will continue to rely heavily on their new players coming together.

“We’re gonna get better from this game,” Meyers said. “It’s November. We got a long season ahead of us, and it’s a great experience for all of us, especially the underclassmen. But, you know, I’m proud of this team, and I think we put up a good fight.”

Maryland will return to XFINITY Center Sunday for a 1:00pm matchup against Fordham.

Sapna Bansil is a pediatric occupational therapist turned journalist who is enrolled in the graduate program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.