A small fight that handed out a penalty in favor of No. 17 Maryland with 3:11 remaining in the third sparked something inside the South Carolina No. 1 as he quit playing with the Terps and dominated the rest of the game along the way. to an 81-56 win Friday night at College Park, Md.
When all that happened, the undersized Terps (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten), who were playing without their best player at Diamond Miller due to an apparent knee injury suffered on Monday, trailed by just eight and in a way not too unlike how they failed against the Gamecocks last year. Maryland was once again hit hard by transfers this past offseason and aren’t considered as formidable as they were last year, but there the Terps were fighting their hearts out en route to a some success. Princeton transfer Abby Meyers fueled most of that and finished with a game-high 21 points.
But Maryland freshman Bri McDaniel badly missed a midrange drop that would have reduced him to six with 3:21 left in the third. She then played aggressive defense against Kierra Fletcher as South Carolina (2-0, 0-0 SEC) raced up the field on their ensuing possession. She would bump into Fletcher and the two would exchange heated words. They had to be separated by teammates and the referees, during which South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso ruled out Maryland rookie Gia Cooke.
McDaniel and Fletcher were called in to compensate the technicians and Cardoso was given an intentional foul. Maryland was over the limit, so Fletcher shot and made two free throws before Meyers made it 1 of 2 on free throws allowed for Cardoso’s foul.
All of that left the Terps still at nine and with possession, but the momentum would quickly swing in South Carolina’s favor. The Gamecocks finished third on a 14-4 run, which turned into a 26-8 run 4:31 into fourth, giving them a 27-point lead.
South Carolina was patient throughout the game on offense, passing the ball until someone had an open look on the perimeter or Aliyah Boston got a good position on the inside. Zia Cooke, who finished with a Gamecock-high 18 points, made a three at 2:36 into the third and capped the frame with three free throws after being fouled on a half-court shot .
It wasn’t as stupid a mistake as you might think from Maryland before those free throws – a bad back pass from Terp Elisa Pinzan to midfield led to a frantic battle for the ball and, all just trying to get possession back, Terp Shyanne Sellers made contact with Cooke as she started her shooting move with 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
Cardoso is 6-foot-7 and Maryland’s tallest players, Miller and Mila Reynolds, are 6-foot-3. As mentioned, Miller didn’t play and freshman Reynolds only played four minutes of foul time. Sellers, a 6-foot-2 guard, was Maryland’s tallest player who was actually there when the game was still within reach. Cardoso converted on a crushing 3-point play with 23 seconds left in the third. Maryland was in position for a defensive rebound, but Cardoso got the ball back simply because of his size and made a layup while getting fouled. The one-and-one conversion extended South Carolina’s lead from 13 to 16 and, heading into the fourth quarter, it may have been the play that put the game out of reach.
A Laeticia Amihere three at 5:29 of the fourth gave the Gamecocks their first 27-point lead, which would end up being their biggest lead of the game.
Boston finished with 16 points, on 7 of 8 shooting from the field and 13 rebounds. Cooke was 4 of 9 from downtown. South Carolina outshot the Terps 55-32, helping them overcome losing the turnover margin by seven. The Gamecocks won points in the paint 40-20, second-chance points 18- 7, bench runs 34-16 and blocks 11-0.