By Jack Parry
After a blown layup by Angel Reese led to a South Carolina free throw opportunity deep in the second half of action, Maryland women’s basketball was running out of time. After nailing her first attempt at the line, Gamecocks forward Laeticia Amihere’s second shot clanged off of the rim to give the Terps a glimmer of hope.
However, Amihere’s miss was gobbled up by Aliyah Boston, who drew a foul to help ice the game for head coach Dawn Staley’s squad.
Despite a 20-point, 10-rebound performance from Reese, she was outperformed by Boston’s 16 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks as the Terps fell to the No. 1 Gamecocks, 66-59.
In a nationally televised matchup, both teams started out with a potent defensive presence. South Carolina started taking the open shots they were given by the Terps’ zone, but they couldn’t convert, only scoring two layups in the first five minutes.
Despite a tone-setting drive and layup from Reese early, the Gamecocks displayed their length and defensive presence. South Carolina had five blocks in the first five minutes, and benefitted from multiple missed Maryland free throws.
In a low scoring game early, Mimi Collins put the pressure on the number one team in the nation with back-to-back threes. But South Carolina came back with two and one’s, keeping it at a one-possession game, 13-11.
Toward the end of the quarter, Katie Benzan showed her resolve as the longer Amihere tried to work her down low. Benzan came up with the jump ball, a display of her crafty defense. A layup for Saniya Rivers down the stretch in the first quarter tied the game at 13 going into the second.
As South Carolina made a run in the second, Reese tried to sway momentum back in the Terps’ favor with a steal at half court and transition layup to keep her side within four.
But down the stretch in the quarter, it became more of a back-and-forth affair. A miraculous spinning layup by Angel Reese was followed by an in-rhythm three-pointer for Zia Cooke, who finished with ten points at the break.
The score at halftime was 34-30, as South Carolina held their lead. The Terps struggled from the free throw line, shooting 5-10 at the charity stripe. The South Carolina defense proved why it’s touted as one of the best defenses in the country, limiting Maryland to 34% shooting and coming up with seven blocks.
Even with both teams coming out and making their shots to start the third quarter, it wasn’t enough to keep the Gamecocks at bay. After the Terps came back and tied the game up at 40, South Carolina went on a quick seven-point run in a little over a minute to lead, 47-40.
Maryland came out of its timeout huddle with energy, going on a run to make it a two possession game. Aliyah Boston and Reese had a battle of two of the best big players in the country. Boston had 12 points and five blocks through three quarters, while Reese collected 17 points of her own despite missing three free throws.
South Carolina closed the quarter on a high with a nice rejection down low on a forced layup by Reese under the basket, as the home team held tight to a four-point lead going into the final quarter.
The Maryland bench held its breath early in the quarter as Reese fell down at half court and had to be carried off by staff. Reese’s apparent cramp followed a run led by Maryland free throws as the Terps shot 6-6 from the line to start the quarter, tying the game up at 53.
Then, the lead finally switched the other way Faith Masonius drove to her left with a falling layup off glass to finally take a 55-53 lead. Maryland’s defense switched back to a man-to-man, which confused the Gamecocks, causing South Carolina to go without a field goal for four straight minutes in the fourth.
But a driving transition layup from Zia Cooke got South Carolina a two point lead with about four and a half minutes left to go.
With both teams not having a productive day from the line, it suddenly became a game of fouls and free throws. With Maryland suddenly going down by five points, Reese wasn’t backing down as she cut the lead to two with a tough and-one bucket.
But the Terps failed to pull off their last-ditch comeback effort in the closing moments of the game.
Benzan missed a three with 25 seconds left, which sealed the game for the Gamecocks. The Terps will look to bounce back from the loss against Coppin State on December 21.
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