The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks absolutely dominated the rebounding battle 61-34 en route to a 66-59 victory over the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins on Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
The Gamecocks (10-0, 0-0 SEC) also blocked 15 shots, well above their nation-leading average of 8.6, compared to just four blocked shots for the Terps (9-3, 2-0 Big Ten).
Maryland cut its deficit to just two on an Angel Reese 3-point play with 2:04 to play, but that would end up being the Terps’ last score of the game.
Reese rebounded a Zia Cooke miss with 1:34 to go, giving Maryland the chance to tie to take the lead. But Mimi Collins missed a jumper and a Victaria Saxton free throw later the Terps were down three. Still a chance to cut it to one or tie, but Reese failed to score inside and three-straight South Carolina trips to the line ensued because of missed rebounds by Maryland.
Fortunately for the Terps, the Gamecocks only went 2-of-6 during the stretch, but, unfortunately, the best 3-point shooter in the country in their Katie Benzan missed a 3-point attempt with 20 ticks remaining. Cooke then made it a three-possession game with two free throws at 12 ticks to go.
Boston continued her national Player of the Year campaign with 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks.
Cooke overcame a slow start to finish with a team-high 20 points, including a 8-of-10 effort from the charity stripe.
Brea Beal added 10 boards to the incredible effort on the glass and Saxton and Laeticia Amihere each hauled in eight.
From 9:11 in the fourth to 6:30 in the fourth, Maryland went on an 8-0 run that took the score from 53-47 Gamecocks to 55-53 Terps, but South Carolina answered with an 8-1 run.
The 8-1 Gamecock run began with two free throws from Cooke that tied the game. Benzan then fell down coming off a screen and Maryland thought there should have been a foul, but none was called and Cooke stole the pass intended for Benzan and took it the other way for a fast break layup that made it 57-55 South Carolina.
After that a free throw apiece from Boston and Cooke and a Saxton offensive rebound turned layup opened up a five-point lead.
South Carolina already had a plus-10 edge on the glass in the first half and came out dominating the boards to start the third quarter. Maryland, down four at the break, tied the game at 40 with the help of two Benzan threes and a Collins backcourt steal turned mid-range make, but after that South Carolina went on a 7-0 run to take a 47-40 lead. Maryland would cut it to 48-46, but the Gamecocks led by four entering the fourth.
The first quarter ended in a 13-13 tie, but South Carolina started heating up with an 8-0 run from 7:23 in the second to 6:27 in the second. The run gave the Gamecocks a 25-19 lead. After being held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting in the first, Cooke dropped 10 points in the second. She was 3-of-4 from the field, 2-of-2 from deep and 2-of-2 at the line in the frame.
Reese made a nice steal at half court, which turned into a layup that stopped the bleeding for Maryland and cut it to 25-21. Maryland would then cut it to 27-26 on a reverse layup from Faith Masonius, but would get no closer in the frame.
Reese was the No. 2 Hoop Gurlz recruit in the class of 2020 but missed a big chunk of last year due to injury. This year, she leads Maryland with 18.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Her 20-point, 10-rebound, three-block performance while being guarded by Boston most of the time showed that she can get it done against the best.
Maryland’s Ashley Owusu, one of the best point guards in the country, was held without an assist and to 3-of-17 shooting from the field. She managed 11 points.