While the game was close in the early-going, the Terps ultimately couldn't hang with the Fighting Irish in their final four match-up, falling by a score of 87-61.
The first possession of the game went to the Fighting Irish, and they beat the Terps at their own game, collecting a few offensive rebounds in a row before finally scoring the bucket for the first points of the game. The Fighting Irish would score four more points on their next few possessions getting up 6-2 before the Terps went back to their game in the paint, tying the game at six after back-to-back buckets underneath.
Continuing the theme of points in the paint, Alyssa Thomas, as she always does, came ready to play and earned an and-one opportunity on the next possession, giving the Terps their first lead of the game, 9-6. However, turnovers would rear their ugly head again, aiding the Fighting Irish to another lead of 11-9. Lexi Brown would make up for it with a long three to recapture the lead, foreshadowing what an exciting back-and-forth game.
There was hardly time to breathe with all the action, with the Fighting Irish scoring a couple of buckets and Laurin Mincy hitting a three for the Terps, all culminating in a tied game at 15 before the Irish took the lead again at 17-15. From there, Kayla McBride would hit a mid-range shot to retake the lead and the Irish would score again in transition to extend the lead to four, forcing a timeout from fiery coach Brenda Frese.
The Irish began to show exactly why they are number one seed with a run to get up 23-17, but Laurin Mincy answered with a step-back bucket of her own to shrink the lead to four. To this point, Alyssa Thomas had only one shot attempt as the Irish made it a point to focus on her.
After a steal, Thomas got going in transition and fed the ball for an easy bucket for Mincy to cut the deficit to two at the under-eight media timeout, 23-21. The Terps gave it right back, however, allowing two straight buckets to the Irish and an and-one which resulted in a 28-21 deficit. Another and-one would put the Terps down 10 with six minutes remaining.
As it was in every other game in the tournament, the Terps struggled with turnovers early in the game and it was haunting them as the Irish pounced at every opportunity. McBride seemingly couldn't miss from the floor, starting the game with 15 points on 7-10 shooting while Alyssa Thomas was forced to sit with fouls. Every answer the Terps had was immediately answered with a bucket from the Irish, keeping the lead at double-digits.
Not only were the turnovers an issue for the Terps, but the rebounding effort was not there in the first half, as the Irish continuously got offensive rebounds leading to more opportunities to score, to the dismay of Frese. With the first half winding down, Mincy missed a three-point shot and the Irish, with 13.6 seconds left got the final shot and buried a long three to go into the half with a 48-31 lead.
Brenda Frese is known for her fiery speeches before games and at halftime, but the team wasn't showing it on the court and would need a big turnaround after the halftime break. The second half wouldn't start the way they wanted, however, with another offensive rebound for the Irish and another and-one. The free throw was not converted but the Terps would continue to be punished underneath.
After another Irish bucket for Kayla McBride, the Terps missed another opportunity and the Irish collected another offensive rebound. The Terps fought back a bit with a couple of buckets, but McBride and the Irish would answer again with a big three and a bucket to extend the lead back to 22.
With 12 minutes remaining in the game, the margin in offensive rebounds was 14-1 in favor of the Irish, a good indicator of how the game was going. The Irish weren't going to let up anytime soon, getting up 65-42 with 11:54 remaining.
Even being down by so much, taking on the personality of their coach, the team wouldn't give up, fighting for every opportunity to score. Unfortunately for them, the Irish were in the bonus with over nine minutes left in the game making it tough for a comeback if one was attainable.
Alyssa Thomas would get some room to work in the waning moments of the game but ultimately it was too little too late. Thomas hit a long three and converted a three-point play to cut the deficit to 22 with five minutes remaining, and DeVaughn cut it to 21 shortly thereafter.
The rest of the game would be much of the same with the Irish just doing what they did all game to seal the deal.
This loss marks the end of a storied career for star Alyssa Thomas who managed to surpass Juan Dixon as the schools leading scorer, a milestone worth memory. Thomas will likely be a top-5 pick in the WNBA draft, leaving behind a legacy that may never be touched again.