By Chris Tulp
In a game where the Maryland Women’s Basketball team was down by as many as 26 points, and got as close as three, they couldn’t pull out the win, losing 94-86 to the University of South Carolina.
ESPNW’s preseason player of the year, Gamecocks senior A’ja Wilson, led all scorers and set a career high with 32 points. Sophomore guard Kaila Charles led the Terps with 31 points, with 27 of them coming in the second half.
The fans were treated to a white out game, in what was a highly anticipated matchup between two top-15 teams. While the Terps came into the game ranked No. 15, the Gamecocks came in ranked No. 4 are the defending national champions.
The Terps fell behind early in the first quarter as the Gamecocks showed their size and physicality. South Carolina’s frontcourt duo of 6-foot-5-inch Wilson and 6-foot-3-inch Alexis Jennings gave the Terps problems down low.
Both Wilson and Jennings would finish the game with double-doubles.
After one quarter, the Terps were down 29-13 and getting outrebounded 11-4, but their energy remained.
“As a team overall, after we got the first quarter under our belt, we were just really amped up and ready to go get after it,” Maryland sophomore guard Blair Watson said.
The second quarter gave a slight edge to the Terps, as they outscored the Gamecocks 23-22. Maryland took advantage of their 10 trips to the free throw line, making nine of them. Watson also started to heat up from three-point range, as she was 3-4 after the quarter. The Terps gained a little momentum, but South Carolina held them in check and led 51-36 at halftime.
Wilson continued her strong play down low in the third, scoring eight points in the quarter, bringing her total to 26. At one point the Terps fell behind 71-45, their largest deficit of the game, but they ended the quarter on a 9-2 scoring run that swung momentum in their favor heading to the fourth.
The crowd in the Xfinity Center really came alive and got behind their Terps in the fourth quarter. Head coach Brenda Frese showed her gratitude.
“It was an incredible atmosphere,” Frese said. “I thought they were just waiting to be able to explode with the play that we were able to get to in the fourth quarter.”
Charles hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 10, which made the crowd go wild, but when senior guard Kristen Confroy hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven, the crowd erupted. The crowd affected the Gamecocks level of play, as they shot only 4-15 in the quarter and missed multiple free throws down the stretch.
The Terps cut it to three with 38 seconds left, but couldn’t get over the hump.
“It just shows we have a lot of fight and that we need to play that type of game for all four quarters and we can be more successful,” Charles said. “This is only the second game and we have a lot of time to improve on our mistakes.”
The Terps have a young team this season and Frese was proud of how they competed against a quality opponent like South Carolina early in the season.
“Obviously it was a great experience for our young team,” Frese said. “We know that the second game of the season in November isn’t going to be who we are come January, February or March.”
The Terps face another tough test Nov. 19 against No. 1 Connecticut.