COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Aliyah Boston was solid as usual, and she’s just one of the post players No. 1 South Carolina can send at an opponent in waves.
“We pass the bus test,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We do do that.”
As impressive as the Gamecocks may look when they disembark at the arena, they’re an even bigger challenge once they take the floor. Boston had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Zia Cooke added 18 points to lift the defending national champions to an 81-56 victory over No. 17 Maryland on Friday night.
Shortly after the Indiana Fever won the WNBA draft lottery – with the 6-foot-5 Boston expected to be the No. 1 pick – the South Carolina star led her team to a fairly routine victory in its first real test of the season. The top-ranked Gamecocks held off a gritty Maryland team that was playing without its own potential lottery pick. Diamond Miller was out with a right knee injury.
Abby Meyers scored 21 points to lead Maryland (1-1), but aside from her ability to score from the midrange and beyond the arc, the undersized Terrapins had a tough time offensively. Perhaps no stat summed up this game better than the Gamecocks’ 11-0 advantage in blocked shots. South Carolina also had a 40-20 edge in the paint and outrebounded Maryland 55-32.
“We’re going to get better from this game,” Meyers said. “It is November. We’ve got a long season ahead of us, and it’s great experience for all of us.”
South Carolina was playing its first of four consecutive road games, and this win makes it almost certain that a Nov. 20 clash at Stanford will be a 1 vs. 2 matchup.
Maryland packed its defense into the paint to deal with Boston, and the Terps were down just six at halftime, 32-26. The margin was still in single digits in the third before South Carolina (2-0) went on an 11-1 run to lead 56-39.
“I saw a lot of really positive things,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought our kids did a great job executing the game plan. You just saw, the third quarter it got away from us, obviously because of the depth that they had.”
Kamilla Cardoso, the Gamecocks’ 6-7 reserve, scored a pair of baskets during that run, sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Cooke. Cardoso finished with 13 points, and 6-foot-4 Laeticia Amihere had 10 points and eight rebounds.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks showed good patience on the road – at times Maryland was practically daring them to shoot from the perimeter instead of working the ball inside. South Carolina did make enough 3-pointers (eight) to make the Terps pay for leaving shooters open.
“We figured out, just extra passes, extra ball movement, making sure that we were crashing the boards,” Boston said. “I think we used that to our advantage tonight”
Maryland: The Terps played a scrappy game, forcing 20 turnovers, and for a half, this was a pretty encouraging performance without Miller. Meyers, a star at Princeton last season, is one of a handful of transfers Maryland brought in as part of a roster makeover. She scored 14 of the team’s first 17 points to help the Terps keep it close for a while.
“Maryland’s going to be pretty good,” Staley said. “I thought Diamond not being in the game, they lose an experienced player.”
Staley was wearing a shirt with a No. 42 on it in honor of Brittany Griner, whose lawyers recently revealed that she had been sent to a Russian penal colony to serve her sentence for drug possession.
“I’m just trying to keep a positive outlook on it and keep her name out there,” Staley said.
Boston tied Tiffany Mitchell for the program record with her 103rd consecutive start.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks return closer to home when they play at Clemson on Thursday night.
Maryland: The Terps host Fordham on Sunday.