South Carolina women’s basketball and its star freshman class started the season in impressive fashion, with the major caveat of it coming against a thoroughly out-manned opponent in Alabama State.
On Sunday, there was no need for caveats — the young Gamecocks have arrived with a 63-54 road upset of No. 4 Maryland
It wasn’t all that pretty, as both teams shot under 33% from the field. But No. 8 USC’s fight on the boards, defensive tenacity and timely offense proved to be enough for the win.
“Just over the course of 40 minutes, I just thought that our pressure bothered them, if you go back and look at the game, it bothered them to a certain extent, and their pressure bothered us,” coach Dawn Staley said. “I thought it was just a game of grittiness. Whatever team got the lead and could hold on would win the game.”
Freshman center Aliyah Boston, coming off posting the seventh triple-double in program history in her collegiate debut, scored eight of the team’s first 10 points en route to a team-leading 14. She also pulled down seven rebounds and blocked five shots in the first half, and her presence alone seemed to impact Maryland’s offense in the paint.
“For me it was exciting,” Boston said of her first road game. “Defensively I think I was just there when my teammates needed me, I was there to help. And I did great blocking and rebounding.”
But Maryland was able to keep things within one possession after the first quarter, led by six points from preseason All-American Kaila Charles, and sloppy offense to start the second quarter kept the Gamecocks from breaking away.
Still, the Terrapins were just 4 of 20 shooting in that second period, and South Carolina overcame early turnovers to rely on slashing guards through the paint to generate free throw trips and take a 34-24 halftime lead.
‘The foul trouble that we had with our vets in the second quarter, where we had to really put a lot on underclassmen, I thought was a difficult stretch,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought was a critical point in the game.”
The Gamecocks came out on a quick 4-0 run to start the second half, forcing Maryland to call an early timeout. After that break, the Terps steadily chipped their way back into the game with 14-6 run, as the Gamecocks missed seven of eight field goals to end the quarter.
A several points in the fourth quarter, Maryland cut the lead to six points, but South Carolina stayed cool despite its youth, shooting 8-of-12 from the free throw line in the final 10 minutes and continuing to dominate the rebounding battle — the final margin was 54-38.
“Honestly it was just stay up, stay encouraged and keep the (pedal on the floor), because at any given time they can come back,” senior point guard Tyasha Harris said of her message to the freshmen heading into the final stages of the game.
Harris herself added a late 3-pointer to help ice the game and finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We have a seasoned point guard. She’s been around the block a few times and obviously leads. The young players, they listen to her. She utilized her experience in being in big games and controlling our team out there on the floor. So she did what a senior point guard is supposed to do,” Staley said.
And one: Freshman Brea Beal, getting her second consecutive start, tallied eight points, 10 rebounds and four assists in an all-around solid performance.
Personal foul: The Gamecocks shot just 31.7% from the field throughout the game, including 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
Tip-in: Free throws proved crucial for Carolina — the Gamecocks made 24 of 30 attempts, compared to just 8 of 12 for Maryland.
Who: No. 8 South Carolina (2-0) vs. Dayton (2-0)
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Listen: 107.5 FM in Columbia area