The No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks’ offense was simply too good Monday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, as the defending champs continued their undefeated season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four with an 86-75 victory over the No. 2 seed Maryland Terrapins.
No. 1 in defensive rating and No. 1 in offensive rating nationally, the Gamecocks made key threes when they needed to (including two apiece from guards Zia Cooke and Brea Beal) and received some unguardable layups from 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso as well. Aliyah Boston led the way with 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists. SC just never had a scoring lull and Maryland really needed it to. Twenty-five offensive rebounds help prevent any lull.
Maryland opened the second half with a Diamond Miller transition layup that cut its deficit to six. But Cooke would make a back-breaking play when she stole the ball from the Terps right after a Maryland defensive rebound and put up a layup that made it 46-36 SC at the 6:30 mark of the third. Had Maryland gone the other way and scored, it would have cut it to six again. Instead it was a 10-point lead for the Gamecocks and there was a Maryland offensive foul on the ensuing possession. On the SC possession after that, Maryland star Abby Meyers picked up her third AND fourth fouls and co-star Shyanne Sellers picked up her third before Cooke made a short baseline jumper that made it 48-36. What a sequence for South Carolina.
Another back-breaking play came when Raven Johnson, a 19.6-percent 3-point shooter, hit from downtown to give SC a 51-42 lead with 3:42 remaining before the fourth. Had SC come up unsuccessful on that possession, Maryland would have had the chance to cut it to four or three.
Later, Cooke answered a Brinae Alexander three that had cut it to eight with a left corner three that made it 56-45. SC entered the fourth up 62-50.
Bree Hall hit a big-time three that gave the Gamecocks a 15-point lead one minute and 35 seconds into the fourth. Meyers then fouled out with 7:17 remaining. Beal extended the lead to 16 on a trey at 6:45.
Maryland made costly mistakes in a second frame that South Carolina won 23-9. The Gamecocks opened the quarter on a 5-0 run to cut their deficit to 21-20. The Terps were able to go back and forth with SC for a while after that, but eventually the Gamecocks went on a 9-0 run from 2:28 in the second to 36 seconds in the second to create a 38-28 lead. Cooke opened the run with a triple and closed it with a short bank shot. SC led 38-30 at the break.
With Maryland down 13-7, Meyers decided to show no fear. She took a deep three and made it to cut it to 13-10. She then stole the ball from South Carolina and made a difficult pass to keep it in bounds to Faith Masonius, who took it half the court for a fast break layup that cut it to 13-12.
An Elisa Pinzan layup gave the Terps the lead and a Lavender Briggs three made it 17-13 Maryland. Briggs would go on to block Cardoso and the Terps would go on to lead 19-13 and 21-15 at the end of the first.
South Carolina went up 11-5 early on an impressive Beal three.