COLLEGE PARK, MD — A’ja Wilson finished the game with 32 points, leading No. 4 South Carolina to a 94-86 over the No. 15 Maryland Terrapins Monday night at home in the Xfinity Center.
Catching passes in the paint, strong rebounding, layups, and jump shots at the top of the key were a continuous and consistent showing from Wilson throughout the entire game. Her solid and aggressive post play launched the Gamecocks to early success, helped to maintain a steady lead -- despite resistance from their opponent.
“It felt good out there, my teammates were finding me in good places and I think we did a pretty good job of rebounding the basketball,” Wilson said.
“Our main goal was to come here and get a real win and we got it done so it felt pretty good.”
Wilson began the game by helping the Gamecocks take an early lead and closed the first quarter with a score of 29-13. Her powerful position on the post made it easy for her teammates to find against Maryland’s zone defense, allowing South Carolina guards to sink easy passes to Wilson down low.
Wilson took advantage of her teammate’s kindness, returning the favor on the lower blocks by nailing backboard layup shots. The Gamecocks finished the first half up 51-36, and Wilson had 18 points on her stat sheet.
“You’ve got to take what the game gives you and, at that time, that’s what the game gave me so I kind of went with it,” Wilson said about her strong showing under the basket.
Wilson extended her point count to 24 within the first five minutes of the second half by continuing her excellent and aggressive post play under the basket. The Gamecocks took the game away in the third, however, the Terrapins refused to lay down as they fought to comeback.
Maryland switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half, but that didn’t stop the ball from touching Wilson’s hands in the third. Although, the defensive change up did make it harder for the Gamecocks down the stretch as they began to scramble in the final period.
The Terrapins’ tight defense allowed them to come within six by the fourth quarter’s three-minute mark, despite the Gamecocks entering the quarter with a 20-point lead.
Yet, Wilson continued fight for rebounds and second-chance points as well as, playing hard during critical times including being tasked with taking the ball out and making free throws when her team needed her the most.
However, Maryland’s attempted comeback failed in part to the resilience of Wilson. Even though the Terrapins outscored the Gamecocks 32-21 in the fourth stanza, the hole dug earlier in the game — particularly the first period -- could not be undone.
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley was content with her team's performance, saying that they held their own against a strong-willed Maryland team.
“We gave them what we had for those 40 minutes and it turned out to be a pretty good game,” Staley said.
Wilson led the way for South Carolina with a new career-high 32 points, 12 rebounds while her teammate Alexis Jennings also posted a double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds.
Kaila Charles led the way for Maryland with her own 31-points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
South Carolina is now 2-0 to start the season, while Maryland fell to 1-1.