In one of the season’s earliest marquee matchups, No. 14 Maryland women’s basketball (1-0) will square off against No. 6 South Carolina (1-0) in Columbia Sunday afternoon.
“I think games like this show us what we need to work on and what we are good at,” wing Jakia Brown-Turner said. “I feel like these games will help us prepare for our conference. The Big Ten is a great conference and these games will help us compete at that level. These are the types of games you are going to see in March.”
While South Carolina lost all five starters from last season, including WNBA No. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston, it still returns a talented team. That allowed the Gamecocks to undergo a reload instead of a rebuild, according to coach Dawn Staley.
South Carolina’s young star in the making is in its backcourt with freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley. Fulwiley broke onto the scene versus No. 10 Notre Dame with her quick speed, whipping the ball around her back before cutting through three defenders laying down the easy layup. Fulwiley even drew praise from Magic Johnson.
Fulwiley is one of the Gamecocks’ athletic guards. Terps wing Faith Masonius realizes how effective they are at quickly pushing the ball in transition.
South Carolina has always been known for its length, and that remains with this season’s group. Its entire starting lineup is a bit shorter than last year but features three players listed at six foot or taller.
The Gamecocks’ reload starts with 6-foot-7 center Kamilla Cardoso, who recorded a double-double with 20 points and 15 rebounds in their season opening win over the Fighting Irish.
“It’s going to have to be collective [against South Carolina] and more discipline to go get as many box outs as you can,” coach Brenda Frese said. “You’re going to have to negate it in different ways. If they are going to out rebound you have to do it with your offense.”
In the two matchups last season between the schools, Maryland lacked the physicality and length necessary to grab offensive rebounds and compete against South Carolina. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Terps a combined 103-58, including 43 offensive boards.
Even with a new roster that provides Frese with more depth, Maryland struggled grabbing offensive rebounds against Harvard in its season opener. The Crimson grabbed 25 offensive boards, 10 more than the Terps. Maryland only grabbed seven more total rebounds.
“You’re not going to be able to give up that many o-boards against such an athletic and a team with great size,” Frese said. “So definitely an area that we’re going to have to improve on.”
The topic of length was a big point at the Terps’ media day, which should help them secure more rebounds. Five-star freshman guard Riley Nelson played ten minutes in the season opener, nabbing a pair of rebounds. With her 6-foot-2 frame, Nelson should excel at grabbing boards along with a pair of 6-foot-2 forwards in Emma Chardon and Allie Kubek, who are both returning from injuries.
The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 5-2, having defeated the Terps four straight times — including in last season’s Elite Eight.
Opening tip-off from Colonial Life Arena is set for 1 p.m.
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