The Maryland Terrapins and Duke Blue Devils had to travel more than 2,500 miles to meet in an NCAA women's Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 game. Although it was the 81st time the schools have met all-time, it was only the second time they had squared off in the NCAA Tournament. The first meeting led to a memorable result. This game wasn't quite as memorable but the Terps again sent Duke home gaining a 65-55 win.
First half - Duke controls the tempo but Terps control the score
The pace of the game's opening minutes belonged to Duke. On the few occasions when Maryland looked to have an opportunity to attack the basket before Duke set their zone, the Terps opted to pull the ball out. Aided by two early three point shots by Laurin Mincy, Maryland got twice got the ball inside the zone to Brionna Jones for good looks. With Mincy's six and four from Jones the Terps held a slim 12-11 margin at each of the first two media timeouts.
Kiara Leslie gave the Terps an early contribution off the bench with a driving layup, a good defensive stop on Elizabeth Williams, a rebound and a steal. Mincy continued to burn the net from behind the arc and her third three pointer of the half gave Maryland their largest lead at 17-13 as the teams went to the break with under eight to play.
While Duke's defense was forcing Maryland to eight of their first 19 shots from behind the arc (and connecting only on the three makes from Mincy), the Terps were also squeezing the Blue Devils on their defensive end. Over the game's opening 12 minutes, Mayrlnd held Duke to just 38.9 percent shooting. The Terps were also able to force six early turnovers including two shot clock violations.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese opted to sit Lexie Brown stretch in the middle of the half. The sophomore point guard opened the game missing her first five shots including 0-2 from three point range. However, early on she got little production from either Brene Moseley or Kristen Confroy. Both teams shot poorly and rebounded equally and it was only by virtue of Mincy's three pointers that the Terps held a 19-17 lead at the final medial timeout of the half.
A small spurt by Maryland that included another three pointer by Mincy and a pair of free throws by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough temporarily gave Maryland an eight point lead. But back to back turnovers in the last two minutes of the half earned the Blue Devils four straight points from the free throw line that brought Duke within 26-21. The answer came from Mincy who drew a foul on a three point shot and made all three free throws.
Duke scored on an offensive rebound and Frese called her use it or lose it timeout with under 30 seconds to play to set up the final shot of the half. For the only time in the half, Duke came out in a man to man defense and the Terps identified and got the ball into Jones for a layup and carry a 31-23 lead into the break.
Second half - All Shatori all the time
The Terps scored the opening basket of the second half when Walker-Kimbrough hit a toe on the line jumper on a kick out from deep in the low post from Jones to see their lead touch double digits for the first time. Duke answered with a drive by Azura Stevens but Walker-Kimbrough had the response with a driving layup of her own.
At various points in the first half, Frese opted to use a half court trap and it prompted a timeout by Duke to avoid a turnover. However, Oderah Chidom gave Duke an immediate life off the bench scoring on a drive to the basket then picking up a steal and making a pair of free throws to cut the lead to six. Once again, Walker-Kimbrough had the answer, once again putting her toe on the three point line. But Duke began to find Stevens who converted a traditional three point play coming out of the timeout.
After Walker-Kimbrough actually made a three, Duke got another inside basket - this time from Williams - and, after a basket by Tierney Pfirman, Rebecca Greenwell made her first three pointer of the game and the Blue Devils trailed 42-39. A Maryland turnover and a put back of her own miss by Williams brought Duke within one and the Terps to the bench on a timeout by Frese.
The Terps turned it over and got the ball out on a break to, who else but Walker Kimbrough, who stopped and hit a little eight foot jumper for her 10th and 11th points of the half. Maryland got another defensive stop and led 44-41 with just under 12 minutes to play.
Out of the timeout, Frese elected to sit Brown again. The sophomore continued to struggle extending her first half woes to missing seven consecutive shot. The move paid immediate dividends as Moseley drained a three pointer and, after a Duke turnover, Walker-Kimbrough did the same. Timeout Duke with Maryland leading 50-41.
On the next possession, the Terps did everything right except get the rebound. Three offensive rebounds led to a traditional three point play for Amber Henson. Malina Howard's first basket of the game helped the Terrapins to a 51-44 lead with 7:59 to play as, for the second time, an apparent Maryland three pointer was ruled a two.
Duke continued to get the ball inside but the Terps scored on a layup by Walker-Kimbrough after Leslie forced a turnover. Moseley and Walker-Kimbrough made back to back three pointers to stretch Maryland's lead to 60-48. Kalia Johnson hit a three to pull the Devils within nine as the clock ticked under four minutes to go.
A Maryland shot clock violation out of the under four minute timeout didn't hurt the Terps as they got a defensive stop. On the other end, while Maryland was having trouble finding the basket, they had no difficulty finding the ball on the offensive glass. Yeoman's work by Leslie and Jones kept the ball in Maryland's possession for well over a minute. Jones finally scored in an inbounds play to open the lead to 62-51.
From that point it was simply a matter of Maryland's depth and will wearing the Blue Devils down. The Terps did the same to the clock and the Terps sealed the 65-55 win.
Walker-Kimbrough finished with 24 points - 18 in the second half to lead Maryland. Mincy scored all 15 of hers in the first half. With Brown held to just a single point, Mosely came off the bench to give the Terps a lift in the second half and finished with eight points. Jones added another double double finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds as Maryland dominated the glass 33-24.
And, although the box score won't show it the Terrapins also got massive contributions from Leslie and Howard whose collective hustle and effort left Duke essentially gone with the wind.
Brenda Frese improved her record to 6-1 in the Sweet 16 and the Terps will prepare to face the winner of the game between Tennessee and Gonzaga.