The Xfinity Center fans, decked in white clothes, bounced up and down as Maryland women's basketball guard Kaila Charles hit a three-pointer. The Terps' contest with South Carolina appeared out of reach, but Charles' shot cut the deficit to 10 with over three minutes remaining.
The Terps closed the gap to three, but they couldn't complete the rally.
Charles scored 27 of her 31 points in the second half in an effort to orchestrate a comeback. The Terps outscored the defending national champions, 32-21 in the fourth quarter, but fell short, losing 94-86.
Despite the team's youth and inexperience with just two returning starters, the run showcased the potential of Frese's squad.
"Most teams would have folded," Frese said. "Most teams would have put their head down and rolled over and called it quits. But I thought this team showed a lot of fight and a lot of pride to be able to fight to the bitter end."
No. 4 South Carolina's size and physicality on the boards troubled the Terps early. After a media timeout just over halfway through the first quarter, the Gamecocks had grabbed five rebounds to No. 15 Maryland's one.
When the first quarter ended, the Terps hadn't scored consecutive baskets, as the Gamecocks seemed to have an answer each time the Terps scored. The visitors shot 63.2 percent from the field and outrebounded Maryland, 11-4, in the quarter.
"As a team, overall, after we got the first quarter under our belt," guard Blair Watson said, "we were just amped up and ready to go and get after it."
The Terps answered briefly, going on a 7-0 run just before the midway point of the second quarter. However, the Gamecocks held them at arm's length, with ESPNW preseason player of the year, South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson, managing 18 points and six boards in the opening half.
Despite outscoring the Gamecocks, 23-22 in the second quarter, the Terps trailed by 15 at the intermission, then by 19 heading into the fourth frame.
The hosts benefited from a lively arena, pressuring the Gamecocks into missing multiple free throws down the stretch, but Maryland couldn't break through.
Wilson finished with a career-high 32 points, paving the way for the Gamecocks to remain in control. Frese called her a "woman amongst girls" and said the 6-foot-5 forward should be playing professionally.
Despite falling short, the Terps took pride in their resolve. They were adamant they'll be on the other side of these victories as the season progresses.
"This game doesn't define us," freshman point guard Channise Lewis said. "We just have to move on and learn from it."
Excluding the first quarter, Maryland outscored South Carolina, 73-65. The Terps have another chance to beat a ranked opponent on Sunday against No. 1 Connecticut.
Frese, proud of her squad, acknowledged the value of playing competitive opponents early on, but said she doesn't want to take much stock in the results.
"It was obviously a great experience for our young team," Frese said. "We obviously know the second game of the season in November isn't going to be who we are come January, February, March."