Slow starts have doomed Maryland all season, and the No. 4-seed Terps couldn’t dig themselves out of a 26-point deficit Friday evening at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Maryland used a stellar fourth quarter to cut the lead to six points, but the comeback ultimately fell short in a 72-66 loss to No. 1-seed Stanford in the Sweet 16.
“No question,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said when asked if Stanford was the best team she’d faced all season. “I don’t think they probably get even enough credit on the West Coast for what they’ve done all year. They’re the deepest, most talented team I’ve ever faced this season.”
The Terps traveled to Spokane, Washington, for its first NCAA Tournament game outside of its home confines of Xfinity Center after flying past No. 13 seed Delaware and No. 12 seed by a total score of 191–136 in the opening two rounds.
But Stanford’s depth and championship pedigree, paired with one of Maryland’s worst offensive outputs, saw the Terps dumped from the NCAA Tournament. Despite appearing in their seventh Sweet 16 game in the past 10 tournaments, the Terps have not advanced past the third round since 2015.
“They won the championship last year for a reason,” graduate forward Chloe Bibby said. “They are deep, and they come in and they execute really well, so credit to them. I thought they did that tonight. They were smart with their plays in their execution.”
Maryland came alive in the fourth quarter, but 30 minutes of languid basketball doomed the lower seed in the regional semifinal. The Terps managed to go on an 8-0 run that started in the middle of the fourth. Stanford went five minutes without a field goal during that same span, which helped shrink the gap to nine.
All the more impressive is that Maryland was without junior guard Diamond Miller, who fouled out at 5:15 in the fourth. On the other side, Stanford sophomore forward Cameron Brink (15 points, eight rebounds) also fouled out in the fourth.
“You really can’t print my thoughts,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer of how she thought her team played in the fourth. “Maryland’s a great team, and they had nothing to lose. They’re a great team, and Brenda does a great job, so you have to keep playing.”
From the get-go, Maryland (23-9) struggled to knock down its shots, and a dismal first quarter in which it made just three of 16 shots from the field presaged what turned out to be an extended doldrum on the offensive side of the ball. The Terps finished the match shooting 34% from the field and 16% from the 3-point line.
“That first quarter really impacted us with the way they came out and shot the ball,” Frese said. “I thought we spent too much time kind of trying to feel out that first half with them.”
The loss was a complete 180 from the Maryland team that tore through the first two rounds. Not only are the Terps the sixth-highest scoring unit in the nation, but they also entered play as just one of three remaining teams in the tournament with all five starters averaging double-digit scoring. But on Friday night, aside from sophomore forward Angel Reese (25 points, nine rebounds), no Maryland player had more than 11 points.
Through the tournament's first two games, junior guard Ashley Owusu had 44 points and seven assists on 18-for-28 shooting. Miller had 47 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, six steals. But on Friday night, Owusu had four points and one assist, while Miller put up 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
After meeting two of the country’s most offensively talented players — Delaware’s Jasmine Dickey and Gulf Coast’s Kierstan Bell — Maryland struggled to slow a Stanford team that came into the game defeating its opponents by an average of 33 points.
Lexie Hull, who had a career-high 36 points against Kansas in the Round of 32, led the Cardinal with 19 points. All-American forward Haley Jones finished second on the team with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s slow start made a comeback feel out of reach. After starting the game 0-for-5 from the field, Maryland’s first basket came at 7:23 in the first, and things didn’t improve much throughout the night. The Terps made just eight field goals in the first half compared to Stanford’s 15. The Terps finished the opening 20 minutes with just 26.7% shooting as a team, while they failed to make their six shot attempts from deep. Maryland’s mediocre start allowed Stanford to control the game in the first half. The Terps added only 23 first-half points as they trailed by 16 going into the break. Maryland never recovered from its poor start and eventually fell to a formidable Stanford team.
2. Foul trouble made things difficult for the Terps to find their rhythm. Some of Maryland’s most disappointing contests of the season this year have coincided with foul trouble, and Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup with Stanford was no exception. Miller picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter. Sellers had three in the first half and Reese picked up two in the second quarter. With a little over five minutes to go in the game, Miller fouled out of the game. The Terps finished the game with 23 fouls as Sellers also fouled out in the final seconds of the game and Reese picked up her fourth.
“It hurt obviously when Diamond got in foul trouble,” Frese said. “She was being aggressive being able to help us initially.”
3. Stanford dominated the rebounding battle. The first time these two teams met in November, Stanford won the rebounding battle 45-35. However, in this matchup, the Terps did not even get within 10 rebounds of the Cardinal. Stanford dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Terps 50-32. Jones, who averaged 7.6 rebounds coming into this game, led the charge on the boards for Stanford with 10.
“I thought we could have crushed up our boards a little bit harder in that first quarter,” Bibby said. “That’s really what knocked us back for the rest of the game.”