The return home came with another difficult test, this time a matchup with the Maryland Terrapins at Colonial Life Arena. The rematch from last season’s Elite Eight was a top-15 matchup as the Gamecocks came in ranked 6th, and the Terrapins entered the game ranked 14th.
Tiffany Mitchell had her #25 jersey retired before the game, and the 2-time SEC Player of the Year was joined in the stands by fellow Gamecock greats like A’ja Wilson, Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, and the rest of the “Freshies.”
A confident jumper from Raven Johnson opened the scoring, but a Shyanne Sellers 3-pointer gave the Terps their first lead 3-2. The two teams traded baskets and stops over the next few minutes, bringing the score to 8-7 at the under-5 timeout.
The Gamecocks suffered a scoring drought until MiLaysia Fulwiley drove past three Maryland defenders and glided in for an and-one layup. USC led 10-8 after the made free throw, and the FAMs came alive. Unfortunately, a charge from Fulwiley sent her to the bench with her second foul.
The two teams combined to make five straight shots to make the score 14-14, but then the next six shots found the iron instead of the net. A bucket from Maryland’s Jakia Brown-Turner and freshman Gamecock Tessa Johnson made left the game tied 16-16 at the 1st intermission.
The 2nd quarter began after a cameo appearance from Aliyah Boston in the booth. The former Gamecock and current WNBA Rookie of the Year was comfortable and knowledgeable, boding well for her budding broadcasting career, but once the game restarted, Boston was South Carolina basketball’s loudest cheerleader.
Reserves Ashlyn Watkins and Tessa Johnson remained active on defense in the early goings of the 2nd period, and the Gamecocks held the Terrapins to a 1-7 start from the field. Unfortunately, USC didn’t shoot much better, so the lead was just 20-19 after nearly 4 minutes of play.
Bri McDaniel gave Maryland a 22-20 lead with a sweet stroke from outside, and after a 1-2 trip to the line for Tessa Johnson, Jakia Brown-Turner hit a 3-pointer of her own to extend the Maryland lead to a game-high 4 points.
Chloe Kitts scored back-to-back buckets to re-tie the game, but the shooting pace got frenetic after that. Allie Kubek silenced the crowd with yet another Maryland perimeter jumper. MiLaysia Fulwiley nailed a deep 3 to even the score, but Bri McDaniels and Te-Hina Paopao traded beyond the arc jump shots to keep things tied at 31-31.
Tessa Johnson and Te-Hina Paopao hit back-to-back 3s to give them four made outside shots in just two minutes of game action. The 4-5 shooting stretch gave Dawn Staley’s team a 37-32 lead.
Maryland didn’t even attempt a shot for about two minutes as the Gamecocks forced three turnovers, and when Maryland finally did score, Chloe Kitts scored again. Shyanne Sellers beat Raven Johnson off the dribble for a layup before Te-Hina hit her 3rd-straight 3-pointer.
The quarter ended with 5 more points from the Gamecocks on two Chloe Kitts free throws, a Sania Feagin putback, and a Sahnya Jah layup through contact. After being tied at the start of the period, a 9-0 South Carolina basketball run to end it saw the Gamecocks lead 48-36 heading into the half.
When play resumed, the struggling Kamilla Cardoso snapped out of her funk with the Gamecocks’ first basket, but Maryland stayed hot from behind the arc, getting two 3-pointers from Brinae Alexander. Bree Hall and Chloe Kitts scored for the Gamecocks, and despite the strong run from the Terrapins, USC’s lead grew to 57-44.
Kitts, Cardoso, and Ashlyn Watkins started dominating the boards for the Gamecocks, and Watkins and Kitts added back-to-back and-ones down low to push the lead to 19 points.
A 12-2 run made the score 66-46, and after a few minutes of trading baskets, the lead was up to 22 points. Then, an egregiously obvious travel call was missed before a Faith Masonius 3-pointer cut into the lead. The deficit shrunk down to 16 points, but Sania Feagin hit a layup at the buzzer off of a nice feed from Raven Johnson.
The 4th quarter started with South Carolina basketball ahead 77-59, and after almost breaking the internet last week, MiLaysia Fulwiley had the crowd ready to explode on two different drives to the basket in the beginning of the quarter. Both drives ended in passes, however, much to the disappointment of the anticipatory crowd.
The lead swelled all the way up to 86-63 after a Raven Johnson corner 3-pointer, and the wind went out of Maryland’s metaphoric sails.
Even with a lineup of bench players running the show most of the rest of the way, the Gamecocks cruised to the blowout victory, and the lead steadily swelled to a huge number. When Chloe Kitts left the game, she left to a loud ovation. The same was true for Tessa Johnson.
Kamilla Cardoso and Te-Hina Paopao got a few more minutes down the stretch as they were below their usual minutes output. The lead grew all the way to 29 after a Fulwiley 3-pointer, and a Te-Hina Paopao made 3-pointer put the Gamecocks over 100 points for the afternoon. The bench mob of young Gamecocks put it on the Terrapins, pushing the USC scoring total to 114.
Despite relatively quiet games from Cardoso and Fulwiley, South Carolina basketball was able to dominate because Chloe Kitts (13 points, 10 rebounds), Ashlyn Watkins (13 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks), Te-Hina Paopao (14 points, 8 assists, 4 3-pointers), Tessa Johnson (12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), and Raven Johnson (8 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds) had tremendous performances.
In a similar pattern to the Notre Dame game, after a close 1st quarter, South Carolina basketball dominated their way to a lopsided victory (complete with a 100-point scoring output) over a top-15 squad. The final score from Columbia was 76-114.
South Carolina basketball is 2-0 and will take on the Clemson Tigers at Colonial Life Arena on Thursday, November 16th.