South Carolina takes control vs. Maryland to reach Final Four

ByABC News
March 27, 2023, 11:39 PM

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Dawn Staley knows what's next for unbeaten South Carolina: a matchup the whole women's college basketball world is eager to see.

But for now, the coach wants to revel in her extraordinary Gamecocks and their amazing achievements.

Aliyah Boston had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and top-seeded South Carolina used its smothering defense to stop Maryland 86-75 on Monday night and reach its third straight Final Four.

Do-it-all star Caitlin Clark and Iowa await in the national semifinals in Dallas on Friday, a game featuring two of the biggest stars in the sport. That can wait a bit. Her players deserve that, Staley said.

"I just want to enjoy this and just give our players an opportunity to be talked about," Staley said. "The joy that I feel for this team to be able to be where they are, I'm just really happy."

Staley's team improved to 36-0 this season with its 42nd straight victory dating to last year's NCAA title run. The Gamecocks are now two games away from repeating as champions and completing the 10th undefeated season in the women's game.

The Gamecocks hugged and jumped when it was over. It's their fifth Final Four since 2015, all under Staley. She'll try for her third national title next week.

"Not a lot of teams can say they're able to do this," Boston said. "So for us to be able to do it feels really good, and it's such a blessing we won't ever take for granted."

Zia Cooke finished with 18 points and Brea Beal 16 for the Gamecocks.

Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior, made 10 of 14 shots. The three-time All-American added five assists, two blocked shots and was named the Greenville 1 Regional's most outstanding player.

Staley ran around the court thanking players, coaches and supporters. She hugged the pep band director and cheered on the musicians with a glowing smile.

Maryland (28-7) was routed at home, 81-56, by the Gamecocks on Nov. 11, but played without injured All-American Diamond Miller.

With a healthy Miller and an offense averaging nearly 80 points a game, the Terrapins were ready to take on the big, imposing Gamecocks. Maryland pushed the pace early, disrupting South Carolina's No. 1 defense, and was ahead 21-15 as an edgy, pro-Gamecocks crowd wasn't sure what it was watching.

South Carolina didn't panic. Cooke shook off an 0-for-3 start to score nine points. Boston was her steady self with 12 points in the half as the Gamecocks outscored the Terps 23-9 in the second quarter to lead 38-30 at halftime.

"I thought the game was lost in the second quarter," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "Their size, their depth, they wear you out."

Maryland got two quick baskets after the break to cut South Carolina's lead to 48-42. But the Gamecocks answered with a 14-3 burst to take control for good.

Miller led the Terps, looking for their first trip to the Final Four since 2015, with 24 points. Miller picked up a technical foul late in the game and thought it was an unevenly called game. "I'm not going to say the refs lost us the game," she said. "I mean, they outrebounded us as we kind of expected."

Maryland shot 50% for the game, yet couldn't hold up down low against the Gamecocks. South Carolina outrebounded the Terps 48-26 and 25-7 on the offensive glass.