After South Carolina cruised to an easy opening win Friday against Alabama State, coach Dawn Staley said the biggest area to improve for her team was its rebounding.
On Monday night, the Gamecocks face a team that will challenge them in that exact area.
No. 15 Maryland and coach Brenda Frese have a long history of great rebounding — the Terrapins have ranked among the nation’s top 10 in rebounding margin for eight years straight — and their current lineup features four players six feet or taller.
One Gamecock has firsthand knowledge of Maryland’s ability to crash the glass: graduate transfer guard Lindsey Spann. Coming from Penn State, Spann faced Maryland multiple times as a conference foe, and after Alabama State, she said her new teammates have to be ready for a battle in the front court on Monday.
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“They’re a great team,” Spann said of Maryland. “They’re always competitive, so we definitely just have to focus on the things we need to get better at, especially based off this game, and rebounding is one of them, and they’re usually a good rebounding team.”
Against Alabama State, South Carolina outrebounded the Hornets 48-31, but Staley was still displeased that her team gave up 17 offensive rebounds. Still, the Gamecocks were able to limit those second chances to just eight points.
Against Maryland, USC will face a team similar to itself — like the Gamecocks, the Terps return only two starters from last season and face many questions about how they will replace some of their top scorers from last season, including all-conference players Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
Like South Carolina, Maryland is limited to a 10-player rotation at the moment but hardly seemed to mind in its opener, rolling to a 91-58 win over Albany. Leading the way, guard Blair Watson contributed 16 points, while forward Stephanie Jones collected 12 points and 18 rebounds.
After Albany, Frese cited turnovers as her main area of concern for the team, which could play into South Carolina’s hands, as the Gamecocks forced 29 turnovers against Alabama State.
Regardless, Staley said facing respected and highly-ranked programs like Maryland in the nonconference portion of its schedule is vital for South Carolina.
“If I could play as big a competition as Maryland each and every game, I would,” Staley said. “Playing them on the road, playing a top-25 team ... can only help us from an RPI standpoint, from our body of work when it comes to the end of the season. Because we play these types of games, it gives us an advantage come committee time.”
This is the third straight season in which USC will face a top 15 team within the first two games of the season — the past two seasons, the Gamecocks have opened their year against Ohio State.
Gamecock Fan Essentials
Who: No. 15 Maryland, 32-3 last season, 15-1 Big Ten, advanced to NCAA Sweet 16
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: XFINITY Center, College Park, Maryland
Their best player: Sophomore forward Stephanie Jones
History: Maryland won the only previous matchup, a neutral site game in Dec. 1997