Watching the men's game against West Virginia Monday night seemed like this variation on an old cliche, "I went to a basketball game and a hockey game broke out." Tonight, the Maryland Terrapins and Princeton Tigers treated anyone who attended or watched to a display of true basketball. In a game that was more appropriate to the Sweet 16 than the second round, Maryland ended Princeton's 31-game winning streak while extending its streak to 26 in a highly entertaining 85-70 win.
Regarding the matchup, Maryland coach Brenda Frese said she thought Princeton was not a typical eighth seed. "They were every bit as good as they looked on film. I'll be honest, I told our staff back when I scouted Michigan and I watched their non-conference game, I think I jinxed us. I told the staff, 'You wait until the bracket comes out and whoever has to play Princeton is going to have a game.' I was so impressed with them from that moment."
First half - Now this is basketball
Malina Howard tipped the opening jump ball directly to Annie Tarakchian and the Terps got half a defensive stop. However, Princeton outfought the Terps inside to get the rebound and scored to take a 2-0 lead. As they have done frequently this season, the Terps willingly settled for long jumpers against Princeton's zone and Lexie Brown missed two before Lauin Mincy dropped one in to put Maryland up by one.
The teams traded baskets with Alex Wheatley doing most of the scoring for Princeton. The 6'2" junior scored six of Princeton's first eight points. The Terps trailed 8-7 but a second thee pointer by Mincy and a layup by Brown after a steal by Tierney Pfirman, who had entered after Brionna Jones picked up an early foul, put Maryland up by four. An unforced turnover by Princeton on a 10-second violation allowed Maryland to extend its run to seven and take a 14-8 lead.
Princeton scored on three straight possessions around Maryland jumpers by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Kiara Leslie. At the under 12 minute media timeout, the Tigers trailed 16-14 with possession when play restarted. Vanessa Smith made a three pointer from the left corner to erase the deficit and edge them back into a 17-16 lead.
Princeton's zone effectively prevented the Terps from getting the ball inside to Jones and Maryland continued to settle for long and mid-range jumpers. As the teams went to the bench for the third media timeout of the half, Maryland's sophomore had not attempted a shot and had just a single rebound. Meanwhile, Princeton found open lanes to the basket. Said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, "They tried to lock up the perimeter which gave us those in-out looks. That's why we got low post touches and beat them off the dribble. What I love about my team is that we don'e take contested shots. We take the best shot."
In building the 23-22 lead, Princeton held a 14-4 edge in points in the paint. Over the first 12 and a half minutes, the Tigers also held an 8-6 edge on the boards. The Princeton contingent in the assembled crowd of 7,794 grew louder. It grew louder still when Blake Dietrick completed a three-point play to put Princeton up 28-24.
Pfirman's three-point jumper from the right corner, her first made three of the season, that bounced on the back of the rim two or three times before falling through, put the Terps back in front and ignited Maryland's fan base. Said Frese, "Specifically, Tierney in the first half gave us a huge lift off the bench. She was an X-factor for us." The roar increased when Tarakchian missed a layup and Mincy drew a foul heading into the final media break.
Mincy made both free throws to put the Terps up 33-30. Princeton answered with a perfect "Princeton offense" back-door cut, but Brown responded with her second made three pointer of the half. With the Terps up by two, Frese called her "use it or lose it" timeout with 34.7 seconds left in the half. Walker-Kimbrough hit a jumper from just inside the arc that was not likely the play the coach had drawn up.
Despite shooting 58.6 percent for the half, holding a 15-12 edge on the boards and a 28-6 edge in points in the paint, the Tigers trailed 42-38 at the half. The Terps shot 51.6 percent and outscored Princeton 15-3 from beyond the arc where the Terrapins shot 5-of-12. Maryland also used a 14-0 advantage on points off turnovers to build its lead.
Second half - Rebounding, defense and the inside game
Maryland opened the half with possession and, at long last, got a touch for Jones in the paint, but Princeton quickly collapsed three players and Brown missed the open three on the kick out. Still, after a defensive stop, Maryland opened the scoring with a jumper in the paint by Mincy.
In the first three minutes of the half, Maryland's mission was clear: Get Jones touches inside, rebound, and tighten up the interior defense. After a Princeton basket, the Terps did just that and Jones drew a foul. She made both free throws and scored again on Maryland's next possession. This began to open up the outside as well.
On the defensive end, Jones and Malina Howard were strongly contesting Princeton's drives to the basket. The Tigers made just one of their first 12 shots. Meanwhile, Maryland made six of its first seven as they opened the half on a 15-2 run that put Princeton in a 57-40 hole at the first media break.
After the frenetic open, the pace slowed a bit. Howard fought her way through a double team to score her first basket of the night. With 13:21 left, Princeton broke a string of eight consecutive missed shots but the next time down the floor, Brown hit a three from the deep right wing to open a 20-point Terrapins lead. The Tigers came right back putting up five straight behind a three from Dietrick and a layup for their first basket after a Maryland turnover, prompting a timeout by Frese.
A second straight Maryland turnover extended the Tigers' run to 7 and cut Maryland's lead to 62-49. Maryland's answer was simple. Get the ball to Jones. The result was two Princeton fouls including the fourth on Wheatlel. Jones, however, made only two of the four free throws and Princeton stayed within 13.
A pair of three pointers by MIncy then Brown opened the lead back to 19 and a layup by Jones put Maryland up 72-51. Jones, who finished the first half with no shots and just one rebound, opened the first 12 minutes of the second with six points and five rebounds. The Terps, who had trailed 15-12 on the boards at halftime, out rebounded Princeton 15-5 to open the half.
Between the eight minute mark and Frese's next timeout, Maryland lost a bit of their intensity. The Tigers found their range from deep and began to hit the boards pulling down a pir of offensive rebounds. The spurt cut the Terrapins' lead to 75-61. Out of the timeout, Mincy calmly drained a three pointer - her sixth of the game in seven tries. At the final media timeout, Maryland's lead was 78-63.
Though time was running short, the Tigers, largely in the person of Dietrick, refused to go gently into that good night. The senior guard, who spent much of the night beating Maryland's perimeter defense off the dribble, did so again with 2:13 to play and drew a foul from Walker-Kimbrough on a three-point shot making all three to draw Princeton within 80-68.
Brown made two free throws and a three point jumper to close the scoring for the Terps. Princeton's Vanessa Smith made her team's final basket and the clock expired on Maryland's 85-70 win extending their program long winning streak to 26 games and finished a perfect 17-0 season in the Xfinity Center.
Maryland finished the game 12-20 from three point range beating Princeton in the way that tigers' coach Banghart's game plan dictated. "Credit to Maryland," she said. We forced them to shoot really well to beat us and that was our goal going in. We were going to make them make shots from the perimeter -- 15 feet and out.
"If Maryland in their home gym as a one seed has to go 12-20 from three to beat us, they advance. So, there you have it."
Maryland finished with five players in double figures and Jones finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring 10 points -- all in the second half. Mincy led all scorers with 27. Lexie Brown also went over 20 pouring in 23. Pfirman added 11 and Walker-Kimbrough 10.
The Terps move on to the Sweet 16 for the 13th time in program history. They will travel to Spokane, Wash., to take on the region's fourth seed (and here's a familiar name) the Duke Blue Devils.