When it looked like one team would pull away, the other one punched right back. All night, it was a back-and-forth contest, just like a top-20 matchup should be.
But the No. 20 Maryland Terrapins delivered the final blow.
Diamond Miller, already with 29 points and 12 boards, put the exclamation point on her outstanding night. Off one foot, falling back, Miller nailed a buzzer beater from the elbow to give the Terps the dramatic 74-72 victory at No. 7 Notre Dame.
“We knew that the ball was gonna go to Diamond. She had the hot hand and it was a set play for her and she executed it to perfection. That’s what you’re all-American, your senior, your fourth-year [player] in your program brings,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
“I just wanted to take the last shot because I didn’t want them getting another possession,” Miller said. “I just got to my spot and shot it.”
With the win, Maryland finishes the ACC/Big Ten Challenge 13-2 all time.
“I’m really proud of the execution by our team. It’s two teams that have a ton of talent on the court and we thought it was going to come down to toughness and readiness and I thought we did an awesome job,” Frese said.
Maryland staved off an early punch from Notre Dame, which looked dominant on both sides of the ball early, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the heavyweight contest. But the Terps punched back, bringing the game to a low-scoring, two-point contest at the first media timeout.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers had her hands all over the game, scoring 10 of Maryland’s opening 12 points. She brought the Terps out of the early hole and propelled them to a 16-13 first-quarter lead.
“I came out consciously looking to score. We watched just a lot of film and knew that I was kind of a tough matchup for them because you have to honor Diamond and Abby [Meyers],” Sellers said.
Notre Dame came into Thursday’s contest with the fifth-best scoring offense in the country, reaching the 80-point mark in each of its first six games. The Terps’ defense rose up to the occasion Thursday, especially in the second quarter, where they forced Notre Dame into an early timeout, with head coach Niele Ivey visibly animated at her team’s sloppy start to the frame.
The Irish committed 11 first-half turnovers, with Maryland scoring eight points off those.
“I thought as a team defensively in that first half we were really really good, forcing them into a lot of turnovers and being really aggressive,” Frese said.
But the Irish responded, cutting the game back to a one-basket deficit, which is where a lot of the rest of the game would be played.
It was a night of runs, with momentum constantly shifting, and it was the home squad that went on a 16-6 run to get out to a 32-29 lead. The Irish had the momentum going, but unsurprisingly it was Diamond Miller who showed off in the second quarter, netting eight of her 12 first half points.
While the first quarter saw the Terps get dominated on the glass, by a near 4:1 advantage, they were much better in the second, out-boarding the Irish 13-8. Second-chance opportunities allowed the No. 20 Terps to go into the break of a pretty sloppy basketball game with a 33-32 advantage.
The volatile runs dissipated in the second half, but the close, competitive nature was there to stay in South Bend.
There were five ties and seven lead changes in the third quarter, with no team having a more than one-possession lead then until the final minute.
“I thought we did a phenomenal job being able to really slow them down,” Frese said when asked about how the Terps held the Irish’s prolific offense down for most of the evening.
With Notre Dame up 53-50 in the quarter’s waning moments, sophomore star Olivia Miles collected her fourth foul of the game, sending her to the bench and giving Maryland an opportunity to push back headed into the fourth quarter.
But the Irish didn’t let that happen, with fellow sophomore Sonia Citron scoring a game-high 18 points at the end of three quarters, as Notre Dame took a 55-51 lead into the final 10 minutes.
It looked like Notre Dame was finally going to pull away in the fourth quarter, but Miller would not let the Irish have it easy.
She started to take over, and as soon as the Terps went down five, it was Miller who made a huge block, followed by an and-one to bring the game to within one with five minutes to go. Halfway through the quarter, she had contributed on all but one of Maryland’s 11 points.
As the Irish tried to contain Miller, fellow senior Brinae Alexander found herself in open space, knocking down a couple of triples to give the Terps their first lead in over 10 minutes.
Miller’s heroics ended this top-20 classic in thrilling fashion, as the Terps improved to 7-2 on the season.
“It wasn’t just me out there. Everybody was driving to the basket and scoring. Without my teammates we wouldn’t be here right now,” Miller said.
Three things to know
1. A 2-0 mark on the road against ranked opponents. Maryland might have two losses early this season, but it has collected two incredible road victories. The first came at Baylor, and Thursday night it clawed its way to down No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend.
2. Lavender Briggs hits the 1,000 point mark. The Florida transfer became the second Terp this season to score 1,000 career points, with senior guard Abby Myers reaching the milestone against Davidson on Nov. 16. It hasn’t been an easy start for the senior, but she recorded an impressive accomplishment Thursday night.
3. The Terps did a great job containing Olivia Miles. Notre Dame’s sophomore guard is one of the most prolific all-around players in the nation, averaging 16 points, nearly seven assists and 7.5 rebounds this season. Maryland forced the star into early foul trouble, and while she was able to knock in 14 points, her impact was limited Thursday.