Maryland player: ‘All the fouls were going one way’ in Elite 8 loss to South Carolina
After Maryland lost to South Carolina women’s basketball in Monday’s Elite Eight, a reporter in the Terrapins’ postgame news conference described the game as “a war down in the paint.”
Sitting at the podium after an 86-75 NCAA Tournament loss to USC at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Maryland guards Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers had a different take on that description.
“It’s funny how you say that when all the fouls were going one way, I felt like,” Miller said.
“So we were the more physical team, apparently,” Meyers said.
Personal fouls were far from the only reason Maryland’s season ended in the Elite Eight while South Carolina advanced to a Final Four game against Iowa on Friday in Dallas — longtime UM coach Brenda Frese held off on criticizing the referees multiple times throughout her postgame press conference while emphasizing that “you can only control yourselves.”
But players’ perspectives made it clear: To Maryland, Monday’s officiating — and more specifically, the 12-foul discrepancy between the teams — added to a frustrating end to their season.
“We were really physical because apparently they were getting all the foul calls,” Miller said. “That just shows we have heart, we have grit and just because they’re taller doesn’t mean we can’t bang. If y’all didn’t see that we were banging today, I don’t know what could show you that.”
Miller continued: “Yeah, clearly we needed to be more physical, I guess, on the offensive side because every time they hit us, nothing was called.”
Maryland players were called for 26 personal fouls during the game, with senior guard Meyers (14 points) fouling out early in the fourth quarter with five fouls and senior guard Miller (24 points) and sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers (11 points) each finishing with four. Miller was also whistled for a technical foul.
South Carolina was called for 12 personal fouls to Maryland’s 26 and shot 26 free throws to the Terrapins’ 15. Sophomore guard Bree Hall was also dinged for a technical foul during a game USC led by as many as 19 points in the second half.
Maryland, a No. 2 seed, gave South Carolina its tightest game of the NCAA Tournament in terms of final scoring margin and led by six points midway through the first quarter. The Greenville Region 1 championship game also featured five lead changes and two ties.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley complimented Maryland postgame for playing a physically taxing 40 minutes and rattling her 36-0 team early before USC pulled away behind 22 points from forward Aliyah Boston and 18 points from guard Zia Cooke.
“Obviously Maryland came on and played extremely fast, just moving the ball up and down the floor,” Staley said. “They were extremely physical, and I thought it just took us a while to get our footing, to really make adjustments to how they were playing us. And once we did, we basically just fought aggression with aggression, because they were really aggressive.”
Frese, without directly criticizing the officiating, admitted she “felt like you were coaching with one arm behind your back” amid Maryland’s game-long foul trouble.
Meyers, for example, had two fouls at halftime and picked up her third and fourth fouls of the game seven seconds apart midway through the third quarter. After leading Maryland with 14 first-half points, she played seven minutes and scored zero points in the second half.
“You really had to kind of try to get a feel,” Frese said. “When they were calling so many of them, you were kind of just juggling who you had on the bench and back and forth, and it kind of felt like that all game. You’re just trying to see who you could keep in the longest.”
Frese added that Maryland’s lack of free throw attempts was “costly,” especially in the second quarter. USC shot 8-of-14 in those 10 minutes; Maryland was 0-of-4 from the line.
“We’re typically a team that gets to the free throw line 20, 25 times,” Frese said. “We only got there 15 times, and I think it was five after half when (there were) even more calls. They got there 26 times.”
Miller later emphasized she “can’t dwell on what the refs call” and pointed to the game’s rebounding margin and second-quarter scoring margin as a key moment in the Terrapins’ loss. Maryland was seeking its seventh all-time Final Four and first since 2015.
“It was our second quarter,” she said. “They beat us 23-9. Nine points in one quarter is tough to come back from. Yeah, it was us. I’m going to take all the blame, and we’re going to get back to the drawing board.”