GREENVILLE, S.C. — Aliyah Boston has played her share of All-Americans this season and each time, she and South Carolina have always ended up victorious.
Facing Maryland’s Diamond Miller, a second-team AP All-American, is nothing more than the next step of a journey focused on success.
“I take it as another game,” Boston, a three-time first-team All-American, said Sunday, “just the opposing five players that we have to play against.”
The top-seeded undefeated Gamecocks (35-0) face the Terrapins (28-6) on Monday night in the Greenville 1 Region for a trip to the Final Four in Dallas next week. It’s a rematch of a game at Maryland last November where South Carolina throttled the home team, 81-56.
The Terps were without Miller, the smooth, 6-foot-3 senior who leads the team with an average of 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds this season.
“I’m not sure at that point of the season whether we would have had Diamond, it would have made a difference,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.
Miller has missed the past two games against South Carolina in 2021 and 2022 because of injury. Her lone appearance came in November 2019 when she and Boston were both freshmen.
Boston had 14 points and seven rebounds in the Gamecocks’ 63-54 win while Miller finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Boston has been as steady in her approach since she first stepped on the court at South Carolina. There were moments when coach Dawn Staley had to tweak and shape Boston’s practice habits early on, guidance the young player took to heart and improved.
With Boston a senior who swept the major national awards last season, Staley said her centerpiece performer is solely focused on the wins.
“She doesn’t care about stats. She doesn’t care about double doubles. She just wants to win,” Staley said. “I think she wants to go out as winners with her team. Like that is it.”
Boston has taken on her share of talented players this season. She had 14 points and 13 rebounds in a 76-71 overtime win at Stanford in November to overcome Cardinal star Cameron Brink’s 25 points.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Boston and the Gamecocks put away LSU and first-team All-American Angel Reese, 88-64. Boston had 14 points and nine rebounds while Reese’s streak of 23 double doubles to start the season ended as she had 16 points and four rebounds.
Miller was disappointed she couldn’t play the past two against South Carolina and is simply excited to get another chance at Boston and the defending national champions.
“Aliyah is a great player,” Miller said. “They have a lot of great players, and our class of 2019 is really thriving right now. It’s going to be fun.”
POINT GUARD DUO
Staley brought in Georgia Tech grad transfer Kierra Fletcher for her experience and steadiness at running at team with sophomore Raven Johnson, expected to take over the point this season, coming off a serious knee injury.
Instead of a competition, Fletcher and Johnson formed a bond that helped make the Gamecocks better. Fletcher has started 31 games this season, but Johnson has averaged more minutes coming off the bench.
Staley says their practice work has improved the team and kept the undefeated season going. It’s lot like, Staley recalled, when she and Teresa Edwards competed at point guard for the ABL’s Richmond Rage. Staley couldn’t supplant Edwards as starter and focused on making everyone better.
“We had knock-down, drag-outs,” Staley said. “And we made our team better because of what we were able to bring to the table. And that’s what Raven and Kierra are doing for our team.”
LARGE, HOSTILE CROWD
Maryland’s Frese believes her team is accustomed to playing and tuning out large crowds — as the team will see Monday night against South Carolina.
The game is at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena (nicknamed, “The Well”), about 90 minutes from South Carolina’s home court. There were 12,879 people in the building for the Gamecocks’ 59-43 win over UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Saturday.
Even more South Carolina fans are expected at the 15,951-seat building for the next game. The Gamecocks have led women’s basketball in attendance the past eight seasons, including this season as they averaged 12,942 per game.
Frese said her team has competed in front of large crowds at Notre Dame, at Baylor and at the Big Ten Tournament semifinals against Iowa, where much of the fans were backing the Hawkeyes and their star Caitlin Clark.
“We’ve been in so many of these,” Frese said, “that we don’t even blink anymore.”
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