When the Maryland Terrapins and Tennessee Lady Vols met in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the fourth-seeded Terps were the underdog to the top-seeded Lady Vols who were playing just 250 miles or so from their home in Knoxville. At stake was a trip to the regional final. The Terps took care of business and eventually reached the Final Four.
In 2015, the roles were reversed and the stakes were higher. Maryland was the favorite and the winner was guaranteed a trip to the Final Four and a matchup with the Connecticut Huskies. For the second straight year, the Terps ended the Lady Vols season coming away with a 58-48 win.
First half - Duke redux grinding it out
The Terps started slowly, missing four of their first five shots, turning over the ball twice in the first five minutes and trailing 7-2 at the first media timeout. Lexie Brown went to the bench with an early foul and Brene Moseley didn't provide the immediate lift that she has in recent games.
The Lady Vols played the same sort of aggressive defense that fueled their comeback against Gonzaga on Friday. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough got Maryland comfortable on the offensive end with a drive to the basket that drew a foul and she converted the three-point play. Laurin Mincy followed with a short jumper in the lane that brought the Terps within 9-7.
On the opposite end, the Terps were playing their own brand of stiff defense. Through the first eight minutes, Tennessee shot just 4-of-14 and had three turnovers of its own.
The slight cool down that all the Terps but Walker-Kimbrough experienced in the second half of their win over Duke, continued into the first half against the Lady Vols and even struck Walker-Kimbrough. Though the sophomore had five of Maryland's first 14 points, both baskets came on drives into the lane. She was 0-of-3 on jump shots, including missing her only three point attempt. Mincy missed both of her long-range shots and Lexie Brown's shooting woes continued as she failed to crack the scoreboard through the first 13 minutes.
With it all, the Terps trailed by only one, 15-14, at the under eight minute timeout. With 6:09 to play, Maryland took a lead for the first time on two Mincy free throws. The teams traded baskets and a third basket by Brionna Jones, who was also dominating on the boards with seven early rebounds to go along with her seven points, put Maryland up 20-17 with possession at the final media timeout of the half.
However, Mincy had her shot blocked on a drive into the teeth of Tennessee's defense and Cierra Burdick scored on a layup and continued poor shooting prevented Maryland from gaining any separation. Eventually, Tennessee made the Terrapins pay, regaining a 21-20 lead on a layup by Jaime Nared when Maryland called a timeout. Brown broke a four minute Terps scoring drought and scored her first basket in Spokane with her jumper from the corner of the lane and Maryland took a 22-21 lead into the break.
For the half, defense ruled. Maryland shot just 32 percent while holding Tennessee to 31 percent. The teams were a combined 1-of-12 from beyond the arc where Maryland missed all four of its attempts. The Lady Vols held a slight 23-20 edge on the boards while the Terps were 4-of-5 from the free throw line. Tennessee missed its only attempt.
Second half - Pulling away at the end
Opening the half, the scales remained heavily weighted to the defensive side. Both teams turned over the ball on their first possession before trading baskets. A pair of missed Maryland threes and a turnover put the Lady Vols up by three. The Terrapins' first made three, a corner jumper by Kristen Confroy, knotted the score at 29 four and a half minutes into the second stanza.
Back to back turnovers by Mincy -- one hustling after an offensive rebound and one simply a lack of focus on a pass -- led to a three pointer by Ariel Massengale and a layup by Burdick that put the Lady Vols up 34-29 and prompted a timeout by a visibly upset coach Brenda Frese.
A pair of offensive rebounds by A'Lexus Harrison proved fruitless, but two strong defensive possessions led to five straight points by Walker-Kimbrough on a fast break layup and a three-point jumper. When Bashaara Graves, who gives the Lady Vols a strong inside presence, got tagged with her third foul on a loose ball scramble near midcourt, Tennessee coach Holly Warlick had to use a timeout of her own.
Brown's three pointer extended Maryland's run to 8-0 and a layup by Jones gave Maryland a 10-0 run and a five-point lead. But the Terps couldn't stand prosperity and the Vols answered with a five-point run of their own to recapture a lead, 42-41. A long rebound off a missed three allowed Massengale a fast break layup that extended the lead to three.
Brown began to heat up and hit a three after Walker-Kimbrough's steal that tied the game at 44. More tight defense slowed what, for this game, amounted to an offensive party. Neither squad scored in the nearly two minutes between Brown's jumper and the next dead ball at 6:01 to play. The teams went to their respective benches still tied at 44 all.
Graves' drive put the Lady Vols up by one but Big Shot Brown drained her third three pointer of the half and, after Jones grabbed her ninth rebound, Mincy's excuse me bank shot from 17 feet gave Maryland a 49-46 advantage as the teams went to the bench for the final media timeout.
Tennessee's weary legs showed on missed shots but not on its effort on the offensive glass where the team pulled down three offensive rebounds on two consecutive possessions. Brown's driving layup with the shot clock running down gave Maryland a 51-46 lead with 1:12 to play. Massengale made a driving layup with precisely a minute left. The Terps turned over the ball against the Lady Vols' press but Burdick air balled a three.
Graves fouled Jones before the Terps inbounded the ball. The sophomore made the first of two, but Tennessee knocked the rebound out of bounds. The Lady Vols then fouled Moseley who made both. On the ensuing possession, Jones came out and blocked Massengale's three point shot. Brown made both her free throws as did Mincy and the Terps closed out the 58-48 win.
The Terps, and possibly exhaustion, held Tennessee to just two of its last 17 shots. Maryland made 11 of 13 from the foul line and finished with a 41-40 edge on the boards. Brown, who had scored just three points through the first three halves in Spokane, finished as Maryland's leading scorer with 15 points. Jones added 14 points and finished one rebound shy of a double-double. Mincy and Walker-Kimbrough also scored in double figures with 10 and 12, respectively.
The win, Maryland's 28th in a row, sets up a Final Four matchup with Connecticut. It is the first time Brenda Frese has taken the Terps to the Final Four as a No. 1 seed. It marks only the third time that all four number one seeds have reached the women's Final Four.