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No. 20 Maryland women’s basketball knocks off No. 6 UConn, 85-78

The Terps knocked off the sixth-ranked Huskies in College Park.

Connecticut v Maryland Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

With Maryland women’s basketball’s top-20 showdown against No. 6 Uconn tied at 62 early in the fourth quarter, graduate guard Abby Meyers, who finished with 20 points, nailed an acrobatic and-one. She missed the free throw, but sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers nailed a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound to finish off the five-point possession.

“Right now, I have a lot of confidence. You know, we have a great coaching staff. It’s always my fear of being aggressive and just making sure I’m taking the right shots. To just kind of having that in mind and just being confident is key in making sure I know I can hit those shots every single time,” Sellers said after her seventh straight game with double-digit points.

Maryland was fueled from the run and did not give up the lead thereafter, as the Terps upset the sixth-ranked Huskies, 85-78. Sellers finished the afternoon with 19 points, her seventh-straight game in double figures.

Clutch, big-time shots were a theme for the Terps today, who shot 12-of-30 from distance.

“They made big threes that went in and really were back breakers. So, you know, they deserve all the credit for making the plays they had to make,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said.

From the day Maryland women’s basketball’s schedule was released, the Terps circled the Dec. 11 matchup against UConn.

What couldn’t have been known was UConn’s severe injury bug, with the Huskies fielding just seven players Sunday. Paige Bueckers, the 2021 national player of the year, and top-ranked freshman Ice Brady were ruled out in the preseason with a torn ACL and dislocated patella, respectively. Graduate forward Dorka Juhász missed her seventh straight game with a broken thumb and sophomore guard Azzi Fudd, who was born and raised in the local DMV area and heavily recruited by Brenda Frese, was out with a knee injury.

The big news before tipoff was the announced absence of junior guard Nika Mühl, who suffered a concussion in the Huskies’ 69-64 win Thursday against Princeton.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team and how we represented ourselves out there,” Auriemma added.

The highly anticipated matchup began with the XFINITY Center rocking at tip, and head coach Brenda Frese was honored pregame for her 600th win, which she notched Thursday at Purdue.

The energy might have gotten to the Terps a little too much early, who were erratic on the offensive end early, especially senior guard Diamond Miller. Trying to play the game at an increased speed, UConn took advantage of poor shot selection and crippled the Terps in transition, going on an 8-0 run midway through the opening quarter. Down 15-7, Frese called timeout to settle things down.

Rebounding continued to be a major problem for the Terps, who were nearly doubled up in that department Sunday afternoon.

For the Huskies, it was a predictable start by junior forward Aaliyah Edwards, who used her six-foot-three frame to bully Maryland inside. She entered the game averaging close to a double-double, and got over halfway there after the opening 10 minutes with 10 points and three boards.

With only two available substitutes, UConn ran into foul trouble early on in the second quarter, with leading scorer Lou Lopez Sénéchal being forced into her third foul, which put a sense of uneasiness on the Huskies.

Maryland clamped down on the defensive end, and Meyers culminated an emphatic 8-0 Maryland run with a huge three, causing the XFINITY Center crowd of over 12,000 to erupt.

“It felt good to see the ball go through and the the crowd was just so energetic today,” Meyers said.

Up 27-24 with 5:34 left in the second quarter, the game suddenly turned into a scoring frenzy. Trading buckets on both ends, defense looked optional, and both teams would end the half shooting the lights out. The Huskies, over 50% from the field, but for Maryland, it was nearly 50% from three alone.

Meyers had four of those triples, with her 18 first-half points leading the Terps to a 40-36 advantage at the break.

“We talked about shot selection a lot and as long as we’re shooting the ball with confidence like we’re doing currently, that’s a great thing, but it’s about adapting every game because every game is going to be different. And so that’s where we’ve got to understand we can’t live and die by the three because there’s nights where — like Nebraska — it was off and we’ve got to be able to find other ways. But I love when it’s falling. I hope we can continue it,” Frese said.

Maryland came out in the second half looking unstoppable on the offensive end, bringing its lead to 12 points at the midway point of the third quarter. But the always dangerous Huskies pulled themselves right back in it, going on an immediate 10-0 run to bring the deficit down to two. They finished the quarter outscoring the Terps 14-8 in the paint and dominated down low all game long.

With four points separating the two squads entering the fourth, the game looked destined to come down to the finish.

But Maryland’s cleanness and efficiency reigned supreme Sunday afternoon, as it continued to limit mistakes, committing just five turnovers on the day to UConn’s 22.

The back-and-forth third quarter, which saw Maryland’s lead bounce between one and two possessions throughout, was a treat for any neutral fan.

In the waning moments, Miller hit a three to bring the Terps lead to seven and put the unforgettable showdown out of reach.

When asked about what it meant to finally defeat Auriemma and UConn after seven losses, Frese said, “Just to be able to do it here in Maryland, on our home court with these guys. Just the adversity that we’ve had to face as a team with injuries as well. So it’s one that I’ll always remember.”

Three things to know

1. The Terps took full advantage of an injury-depleted UConn squad. With three starters out and only seven players at their disposal, the Huskies came in shorthanded. That was only exuberated when Lopez Sénéchal had to sit most of the second quarter with three fouls. As the game progressed, Maryland looked like the fresher team, grabbing offensive boards late and playing a very clean game.

2. The first-ever victory against the Huskies. UConn had taken the previous seven meetings in this matchup, but the script was emphatically flipped Sunday. The Terps were the more efficient squad all afternoon, dominating in the assist-to-turnover department — Maryland had 19 assists to just five turnovers — which is a statistic Frese has hounded on all season. While the Huskies were not at full strength, the Terps are without three players of their own and put forth their best 40-minute performance of the season. The back-and-forth action late was exciting, but Maryland delivered when it mattered most.

3. Have a day, Abby Meyers. The past two weeks have been up and down for the Princeton transfer, but the Potomac, Maryland native had the best game of her young Maryland tenure on Sunday. She started the game off 1-for-5 from the field, but in the second quarter, she was on a different level. She drained all four of her 3-point attempts and electrified the crowd on two separate occasions. She played all 40 minutes and had a laugh postgame when Frese mentioned her time played.

“She asked for a sub ... I brought her over and I said ‘Yeah, no.’”