North Carolina knocked Maryland out of the ACC Tournament last season, and it's happened once again.
The Terrapins played a poor first half, and an incredible second-half comeback effort came up just short despite 24 points and 11 rebounds from Alyssa Thomas. Maryland lost, 73-70, making it their last-ever game in ACC competition.
It was a fast-paced game in the first half, and Maryland turned the ball over 13 times in a disappointing opening period.
The Tar Heels took an early 7-1 lead at the under-16 on a three-pointer by Diamond DeShields and some sloppy play by the Terrapins, but Alyssa Thomas hit a layup out of the break to cut down the North Carolina lead. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough forced a foul on the next possession and hit both of her free throws, and Maryland got the ball back after a North Carolina turnover with the deficit just 9-5.
After the two teams exchanged turnovers, Laurin Mincy put an offensive rebound back in for a bucket, cutting the lead to two. The game continued its frenetic pace, as Lexie Brown came charging down the floor, drawing a foul, making the layup and the ensuing free throw and taking the Terps' first lead at 10-9. DeShields answered right back with another key three to make it 12-10.
The Tar Heels jumped out quickly after the under-12 break, hitting two straight shots to extend their lead to 17-10. Walker-Kimbrough responded with a two-pointer, and the two teams went back-and-forth before a North Carolina run brought the lead to 28-20. The Tar Heels saw a strong finish to the half, taking a 37-26 lead into the break.
The Terps got out to a quick start in the second half, scoring four straight points to make the lead significantly more manageable. Thomas, who struggled in the first half, put her game together early in the second and it paid instant dividends -- Maryland cut the lead to 39-34 with 17:25 remaining.
After the two teams traded empty possessions, Brown burst to the hoops for the Terrapins, hitting a key layup to make it 39-36. Allisha Gray responded with a three-pointer, and the Tar Heels put a little rally together to bring their lead to 48-36 before Brenda Frese was forced to call timeout.
Trailing midway through the half, Alyssa Thomas hit a pull-up jumper in transition, giving her 14 points on the day and breaking Crystal Langhorne's program record for career points.
Maryland fell 62-52 with a little more than eight minutes to play, but Walker-Kimbrough came up with a huge steal and layup to cut the lead back down to single digits. After North Carolina brought the lead back up to 10, Maryland hit their first three of the night, as Katie Rutan hit from deep.
With less than four minutes to play, Maryland trailed 70-63, and Mincy made on free throw to cut the lead to six. The Tar Heels made a free throw, and Brown responded with two straight baskets to make the game 71-68 with just over two minutes left to play. North Carolina missed their next shot attempt, and Thomas took advantage with a fantastic stepback jumper to cut the lead to one.
North Carolina missed two more baskets -- Thomas missed the shot on one, but Maryland was miraculously able to come up with a loose-ball scramble and a timeout after the second.
The Terrapins' inbound play went horribly awry, as Thomas was unable to hold on to the ball on the dribble, forcing a jump ball and North Carolina possession. UNC was able to make both free throws, and Maryland's last possession came up empty for the loss.