GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Zia Cooke scored 18 points and top-seeded South Carolina used its smothering defense to take control in the second quarter, outlasting second-seeded Maryland 86-75 on Monday night to reach its third straight Final Four.
Coach Dawn 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.
South Carolina will play Iowa and do-it-all star Caitlin Clark in the national semifinals in Dallas on Friday night.
The Gamecocks hugged and jumped when it was over. It’s the fifth Final Four since 2015, all under Staley. She’ll try for her third national title next week.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior, made 10 of 14 shots. The three-time All-American added five assists and blocked two shots.
Maryland (28-7) was routed at home, 81-56, by the Gamecocks last 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-Gamecock 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.
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.
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.
Maryland: Terps have seven seniors, including Miller and four other starters. But Shyanne Sellers is a rising sophomore and likely focal point for Maryland the next couple of seasons. Expect coach Brenda Frese to work hard in the offseason to scour the portal for additions who can augment Maryland’s young roster.
South Carolina: These are certainly the glory days for Gamecocks women’s basketball. Maryland gave Iowa a glimpse into what may rattle the Gamecocks, although they quickly adjusted to gain control. But tightening up to prevent easy layups the Terps got early will certainly be a focus at South Carolina’s practices this week.