In a game that featured two senior stars who lived up to their billing, the Maryland Terrapins were able to pull off the upset over No. 1 Tennesee, 73-62, to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons. Alyssa Thomas led the way with quite possibly the best game of her career, scoring a career-high 33 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Maryland jumped out to a hot start, with Thomas scoring the first four points for Maryland to put her team up 4-3. The Terps then jumped out to a 15-7 lead after Lexi Brown hit a three and Laurin Mincy drove to the hoop and put in a tough lay-up plus the foul.
Mincy was a huge spark off the bench in the first half, scoring eight points in a two and a half minute span. But the star of the first half was none other than Alyssa Thomas, who unlike in Maryland's game against Texas was hot from the very beginning.
Two free throws by Thomas put the Terrapins up 22-9 with 12 minutes left in the half, but two straight buckets by the Vols pulled Tennessee back to single digits. A minute later, Thomas finished a breakaway layup to restore the lead to 13.
Then with just under nine minutes left in the half Thomas went on a run all by herself, scoring seven straight Maryland points to open up a 16 point lead. It was capped by a three from the right baseline, only her fifth three of the season.
The Terps then went scoreless for almost four minutes, plagued by missed shots and turnovers, as Tennessee and Meighan Simmons clawed their way back into it. With five minutes left Simmons hits a three to pull the Vols within single digits, but Shatori Walker-Kimbrough followed up a Thomas miss with a lay-up to bring the lead back to 10.
Four points by Lexi Brown in the final minute of the first half sent Maryland into halftime up a commanding 41-27, with Alyssa Thomas already accumulating 15 points and seven rebounds.
Brown opened the second half with a three-pointer to open the lead to 17, but Jasmine Jones answered with two straight lay-ups for Tennessee, igniting the crowd at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Two minutes later Jones added two free throws, cutting the lead to 11, as Maryland struggled to get going offensively.
But just when it seemed like the Vols were gearing up for a dangerous run, Thomas answered with a lay-up of her own. She then led a fast-break on the ensuing possession that Walker-Kimbrough finished, pushing the lead back to a comfortable 15 with 14 minutes left.
A tough lay-up by Alyssa Thomas gave the Terps their biggest lead of the game, 51-33, while Tennessee racked up its 19th turnover with 12 minutes still to play.
But the Vols wouldn't go down easy, rolling off a 11-3 run led by Simmons to pull the Tennessee's deficit back to 10 and give her team life. But as Simmons started to take over, Thomas answered with her own domination, scoring eight straight Maryland points.
The Vols kept working their way to the free throw line, and a Simmons free throw made it 60-52 with six minutes to play. But there was Thomas with the answer once again, as she banked in a jumper from the left elbow at the other end. A minute later Mincy knocked in a huge wide open three, and Thomas added yet another driving lay-up to bring the lead back to 14.
Tennessee never quit but eventually ran out of time, as Maryland constantly did just enough to hold them off at a comfortable distance.
It was a valiant comeback effort all second half by the Vols, who were led by their own senior star in Simmons. Simmons struggled often early on, but really asserted herself in the second half to finish with an impressive 31 points. But Tennessee was plagued all day by poor shooting and turnovers, finishing with 19. Maryland led the entire game from start to finish.
Fourth-seeded Maryland is now off to the Elite Eight, where they will face the winner of No. 3 seed Louisville and No. 7 seed LSU, who play next on ESPN.