Maryland women’s basketball’s last regular season matchup with South Carolina was 366 days ago. But despite that time between the two contests, they had an eerily similar theme: a helpless Terps defense against an overpowering Gamecocks offense.
For the majority of the first half of Sunday’s battle between top-15 squads, No. 14 Maryland kept pace with No. 6 South Carolina. The Terps trailed the reigning SEC champions by just three with one minute to go in the opening half.
But from then on, a historically bad defensive performance led to a second half collapse from the Terps. South Carolina scored 66 points after the break and cruised to a 114-76 win.
That 114 total is the most Maryland has allowed in the Brenda Frese era. The Terps have only allowed 100 points once before in Frese’s tenure, when Duke scored 101 points in 2002.
“I can’t remember a team from South Carolina having 50 points at halftime and 100 plus for a game,” Frese said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box score with seven players in double figures.”
Sunday’s game played out differently from the Terps’ last two games against South Carolina. Instead of bludgeoning Maryland inside, the Gamecocks became flamethrowers from beyond the arc. They shot 50 percent from three.
“Obviously, they are able to stretch the floor a little bit more,” junior guard Shyanne Sellers said.
In last season’s Elite Eight clash, Dawn Staley’s team outrebounded Maryland by 22. Led by conferencePlayer of the year Aliyah Boston, South Carolina had 25 offensive rebounds and overwhelmed the Terps interior defense.
After Boston left for the WNBA draft, the Gamecocks replaced her with Kamilla Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 SEC sixth woman of the year. The size on Staley’s roster doesn’t end there — South Carolina boasts eight players who are six feet or taller.
Maryland tried to clog the paint to counter that size disadvantage, but that plan often left Gamecock shooters open on the perimeter. It worked to start. South Carolina shot 1-for-7 from deep in the first quarter. And the Terps limited Cardoso, who they held to four points in the first half.
“It was to try to take away Cardoso first and make everyone else beat us; I thought we did a really good job on her,” Frese said.
That strategy proved to be unsustainable. The Gamecocks added 12 threes to separate from the Terps. Seven players scored in double figures, led by senior Te-Hina Paopao’s four threes.
The second and third quarters were crushing to Maryland’s hopes, as South Carolina made a trio of three pointers in under two minutes at the end of the second half to stretch its lead. Then in the third period, the Gamecocks shot a perfect 100 percent from deep to seal their victory.
Frese said the Terps tried to adjust their defensive gameplan, alternating between a person-to-person defense and a zone that she opened the game with. But no matter what Maryland’s defense threw at South Carolina, there were holes to be exploited.
“When we went to our man, we were having a really tough time on the glass,” the coach said.
Sunday’s barrage of points isn’t rare for the Gamecocks. They’re averaging 107 points through two games, both wins against top-15 teams.
Perhaps that’s why Frese seemed more in awe of the sixth-ranked team’s offense than frustrated at her own defense.
“Pick your poison with them,” Frese said.