As Coach Brenda Frese and the Maryland Terrapins (3-0) embark on a to Columbia, South Carolina, to face off against Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks (2-0), here are four things to know before Maryland’s fourth game of the 2018-2019 season, and their biggest game in the early part of the schedule.
Last Year’s Result
The Terps hosted the Gamecocks in College Park for their second game of the season last year. In relation to the student section’s “white-out” theme and the Maryland players’ jerseys, Frese wore a white suit during the highly anticipated ranked matchup.
However, in the first quarter, South Carolina shot 63 percent from the field as Maryland was outscored 29-13. The Terps would outscore the Gamecocks 73-65 in the next three quarters but their deficit proved to be too large to overcome.
Kaila Charles led the charge for the Terps with 31 points and 10 rebounds. But South Carolina carried the momentum of their 2017 National Championship with them and defeated Maryland 94-86.
South Carolina welcomed the No. 16 recruiting class in 2018, according to ESPN, which included Destanni Henderson, the No. 6 overall prospect and Florida Gatorade player of the year. Staley’s recruiting class also included power forward Victaria Saxton, the No. 47 overall prospect in the 2018 class, and Elysa Wesolek, a three-star recruit.
In their Gamecock debuts against Alabama State, Henderson, Saxton and Wesolek combined for 30 points. Against Clemson, Staley seemed to rely on her veterans to carry the load, as the trio combined for seven points.
On the other side, Maryland adds ESPN’s fifth-ranked recruiting class to go with Charles, who averaged 17.9 points last season, and Blair Watson among others. This is the twelfth time Frese has brought in a top ten recruiting class since starting her tenure at Maryland in 2006.
The class includes five star prospects Shakira Austin and Taylor Mikesell, who have played large roles through the first three games of the season.
Austin, the No. 4 overall recruit, has shown the ability to score the basketball and rebound. During Maryland’s home opener against Coppin State, Austin finished with 12 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. Mikesell has demonstrated an ability to score and make plays for others as she has averaged 15.3 points and 3.7 assists through three games.
With the Terps only having two players score in double-figures against South Carolina last year, Mikesell and Austin have proven so far that they can give Maryland’s offense an additional boost this year against the Gamecocks.
Both teams welcomed transfers in 2017 and 2018 who are expected to play large roles for their teams.
South Carolina brought in junior Te’a Cooper in 2017. Cooper spent two seasons at the University of Tennessee before transferring, but sat out her sophomore campaign due to a left knee injury. During her freshman year in Knoxville, the 5-foot-8-guard started 15 of her 36 games, averaged 8.6 points per game and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Cooper is averaging 16 points in 25 minutes for the Gamecocks this season.
Maryland welcomed Slovenia native Sara Vujacic in April of 2018. During her 2017-2018 campaign at Walters State Community College in Tennessee, the 5-foot-11-inch guard averaged 16.7 points per game and shot over 45 percent from beyond the arc. Vujacic has struggled early on, shooting 22 percent from beyond the arc and six points per game but still has a proven ability to make open shots and score the basketball during her career.
During the 2018 McDonald’s All-American game, Austin was teammates with Henderson on the East Team. Austin finished with eight points in 13 minutes, while Henderson was the team’s third leading scorer with 11 points in 21 minutes, in an 82-79 loss to the West Team. Now on separate teams, Austin continues to have a respect for the point guard’s playmaking ability.
“[Henderson] is a pretty smooth player. She’s confident in her position. She makes plays for every player on the court. She’ll drive the ball,” Austin said. “So I think she’s a very confident player.”
In 2016, Mikesell was also teammates with Henderson on the U17 Women’s National team. During their seven games in Spain, Henderson averaged 7.1 points for the United States and tied for the largest number of assists per game at five.
Early in the season teams usually struggle to keep turnovers to a minimum as they continue to find their identity and adapt to one another’s playing styles. It’s the same thing for Maryland and South Carolina.
Although Maryland is averaging 12 steals through three games, the Terps have continued to turn the ball over. Against Dayton on Nov. 11, Maryland turned the ball over 24 times. However, Frese is expecting improvement as the season continues.
“Obviously it was only one game, but [it was] way too many,” Frese said. “For us, I think it’s early in the season and something that we can definitely trim down. I think as we get more comfortable with each other on the court, we’ll be able to take care of those.”
During their first road game against George Washington, Maryland was able to reduce that number to 10. The Terps currently average 14 turnovers through three games, which is just under the 14.1 turnovers that Frese’s team averaged during the 2017-2018 season.
In South Carolina’s home opener against in-state rival Clemson on Nov. 16, the Gamecocks committed 27 turnovers but were able to prevail due to the 29 points they scored on Clemson’s 28 turnovers.
With Maryland lingering on the Gamecocks’ schedule, Staley was not pleased with her team’s ball security.
“I would like for us to take care of the ball a little bit—because if we have 27 turnovers against Maryland we are going to get blown out of our gym,” Staley said after beating Clemson. “But we will take care of the ball better, and we certainly will knock down some more shots.”