COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A’ja Wilson had a career-high 32 points and 12 rebounds, and defending NCAA champion South Carolina withstood a late charge by No. 15 Maryland to escape with a 94-86 victory Monday night.
The fourth-ranked Gamecocks (2-0) let a 26-point lead dwindle to 87-84 before Tyasha Harris made a three-point play with 23 seconds left to clinch it.
South Carolina has only two returning starters from last season’s squad, but one of them is Wilson – and that appears to plenty good enough. The 6-foot-5 senior had 18 points by halftime and finished with her 32nd career double-double.
Wilson went 10 for 19 from the field and made 12 of 18 free throws. Her previous career high was 31 points, against Texas last December.
Harris, South Carolina’s other returning starter, had 20 points and nine assists. Alexis Jennings contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Kaila Charles led Maryland (1-1) with 31 points and Blair Watson had 14.
With only two seniors on a roster depleted by graduation and transfers, Maryland didn’t have the talent, height or depth to hang with the Gamecocks.
After Watson drilled a pair of 3-pointers in a 13-2 run that got the Terrapins to 34-26, Wilson scored 10 points in a 17-10 spurt that made it 51-36 at the half.
The Gamecocks stretched their lead to 71-45 in the third quarter.
Maryland rallied, but couldn’t finish – even though Wilson missed three free throws in the final two minutes.
South Carolina: If this was supposed to serve as an early-season test for the defending champions, the Gamecocks get a solid “B.” South Carolina looked superb for three quarters, and now it has to learn how to finish. The Gamecocks were outscored 32-21 in the fourth quarter and missed four FTs in the last two minutes.
Maryland: The Terps may get better as time goes on, and they just might be able to make another run at the conference championship. For three quarters, they were outclassed. But they never quit, a quality that usually rings true for a team coached by Brenda Frese.
South Carolina: In-state road game against Clemson on Thursday night. Maryland: Hosts Niagara on Thursday night.