By: Brandon Schwartsberg
No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball hits the road this weekend as the Terps travel to take on No. 1 South Carolina in the Jimmy V Classic.
The matchup with South Carolina will be Maryland’s fourth top-ten showcase already this season, as head coach Brenda Frese purposefully scheduled ranked opponents in the non-conference schedule to get her squad prepared for the NCAA Tournament in March.
“I felt like with everyone coming back this year, I didn’t want to be surprised in March,” Frese said. “I felt like we needed better competition to prepare us.”
The Terps have gone 1-2 in their three games against top-ten teams thus far, having beaten Baylor at home before dropping games to both NC State and Stanford in the Bahamas.
Similarly to Maryland, South Carolina has played three top-ten squads early in the season. However, the Gamecocks have handled their business in each of those contests, having beaten NC State, Oregon, and UConn all by at least 9 points.
Maryland enters South Carolina winners of three straight, most recently on Wednesday against Purdue. The Terps had a sluggish first half as they entered halftime down four. Maryland shot only 35% from the floor, and only 62% from the free throw line.
In comparison, Purdue shot 64% overall and 61% from behind the arc — the Boilermakers connected on eight first half 3-pointers. What kept Maryland in the game was its ability to force turnovers, as Purdue turned the ball over 15 times en route to 18 points for the Terps off those turnovers.
Maryland’s defense found another level in the second half, holding Purdue’s shooting to 36% from the floor and 21% from three point range. The Boilermakers’ struggles to keep possession of the ball continued, as they turned it over eight more times, resulting in easy scoring opportunities for the Terps.
Ashley Owusu led the second-half charge for Maryland, as 12 of her team-high 20 points came in the final two quarters. Four other Terps’ reached double-figures. Katie Benzan and Angel Reese both scored 15 points, and Chloe Bibby and Mimi Collins each added 12 points to Maryland’s scoring total.
Maryland controlled the tempo throughout the game, setting up their late run.
“When you’re playing fast and then slow down, that’s very useful going into the season,” Owusu said.
The Terps outscored the Boilermakers 50-31 in the second half, resulting in a comfortable 86-71 win.
“We were disappointed in the first half but we have to take some lessons and learn from it so that come Sunday and come the following games that doesn’t happen because we want to show we’re a top-ten team and we deserve to be in that conversation,” Benzan said.
South Carolina’s most recent battle came Friday night at home against Kansas State. The Gamecocks led from start to finish, cruising to a 65-44 win over the Wildcats.
Junior forward Aliyah Boston was dominant on the inside, as she recorded her third double-double of the season. Boston grabbed 17 boards to go along with her 21 points. The 17 rebounds were a season-high for Boston.
South Carolina’s defense was stifling, as Kansas State shot only 26% from the field and 15% from behind the arc.
The Gamecocks are one of the most swarming defensive teams in the country, allowing an average of less than 50 points per game. On the other hand, Maryland averages over 80 points per game on offense, pitting strength against strength.
The game on Sunday will start at 3 p.m. and will take place at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.
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