No. 4-seed Maryland women’s basketball’s mission came to an end Friday, falling to the reigning national champions in No. 1-seed Stanford, 72-66.
The Terps were outplayed for the entirety of the night, as Stanford led from start to finish. Maryland had a miserable offensive night, shooting 34% from the field and missing 16 of its 19 three-point attempts.
Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese was one of Maryland’s lone bright spots, scoring 25 points and grabbing nine boards in 29 minutes of play.
Maryland finishes its season with a 23-9 record and a Sweet 16 loss for the second straight season. Through all the adversity, whether it be injuries, illness or personal matters, Maryland’s 2021-22 was a much more rigorous season than expected.
“Just really proud of their resiliency,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “This team could have given up many times, just through all of the adversity that they faced. And to be able to get back to a Sweet 16 with a season that was really kind of unlike any season we’ve ever experienced. So, just proud of the fight, the fact that they never gave up, and I think this game kind of showed that.”
Let’s dive into the takeaways from Friday’s defeat.
A brutal first quarter forced Maryland to play from behind.
In her ESPN interview between the first and second quarter, Frese recognized that her team was playing with anxiety and nerves.
Through one quarter, Maryland found itself trailing, 22-10. Mostly everything did not go according to plan for the Terps in the first frame.
Maryland shot 19% from the field in the first quarter, making only three of its 16 field goals, none of which came from beyond the arc. On the other hand, Stanford was on fire with 71% shooting, draining 10 of its 14 first-quarter shot attempts.
“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.”
Whether it was Stanford’s signature backdoor action or its overwhelming length across the floor, Maryland had no answer. Stanford dominated Maryland in the paint in the first frame, outscoring it, 14-4. Maryland also lost the first-quarter rebounding battle, 10-7.
Stanford’s two All-Americans — junior guard Haley Jones and sophomore forward Cameron Brink — each had eight first-quarter points.
Maryland’s inability to generate early offense was amplified by foul trouble; star junior guard Diamond Miller picked up two fouls in the first quarter. The Terps responded with the first four points of the second quarter, but Stanford was simply the better team in every aspect. Reese scored nine points in the first half, but no one else scored more than four.
“I think they punished us first,” graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby said. “I thought we came out, I thought we were ready. But obviously they came out and they punched us first, definitely towards the end of that quarter.”
Maryland needed its A-game from the jump, but it never found its footing.
Stanford dominated Maryland on the glass.
To an average spectator, the Cardinal’s length immediately stands out. Of Stanford’s 10 players used in the first half, eight of them stand at six-foot or taller. Stanford not only possesses great height, but it strives in athleticism.
Its size is highlighted by none other than its All-American big.
Brink — who only played nine minutes due to illness in the first meeting between the teams on Nov. 27 — was a force. Her length is incredible, and Maryland had yet to truly deal with a player of her ilk.
Stanford owned a 26-11 rebounding advantage at the half, and Brink corralled seven boards, four of which were offensive.
“We really wanted to focus on rebounding because they’re an excellent offensive rebounding team,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “...We need to rebound and the fact that we did rebound. And again, I think someone like [freshman forward] Kiki [Iriafen] came in. [Junior forward] Fran [Belibi] had seven rebounds, Haley had 10 rebounds. Cam in her 19 minutes had eight rebounds. So rebounding is definitely key and is a key going forward.”
Maryland struggled to contain Brink and Stanford’s rebounding prowess all night long. Brink only played six second-half minutes, but the rebounding narrative did not change. Frustration and foul trouble prevented Maryland from ever finding a rhythm, and Stanford completely exploited it on the glass.
“I think we needed to crash the offensive boards more, honestly,” Bibby said. “...Sometimes those 50/50 balls sometimes we were caught a second behind and they took full advantage of that, so credit to them.”
As the clock showed three zeroes, it was a 50-32 rebounding edge in favor of Stanford. The Cardinal were by far the more physical team Friday, and it showed on the glass.
Maryland’s star backcourt was stymied, leading to a part of Maryland’s underwhelming offensive showing.
Reese had a sensational sophomore campaign, but Maryland was only going to go as far as guards Ashley Owusu and Miller would take them.
The duo was special in Maryland’s first two tournament games, combining for 47 points against Delaware in the first round and 44 against FGCU in the second round. With both players finally healthy and playing together, they produced the type of dual outputs that Maryland fans had been waiting for all season.
If those showings continued, it felt like the sky was the limit for Maryland. Unfortunately for Maryland, they did not on Friday.
Miller scored 11 points but was constantly frustrated throughout the night. Miller was 3-of-11 from the field and was unable to string together any sort of consistency.
Foul trouble haunted Miller, as she picked up her fourth foul before the halfway mark of the third quarter. She ultimately fouled out in the fourth quarter and was clearly emotional as she checked out of the game.
Miller’s backcourt partner in Owusu — the Batman to her Robin — had a significantly more difficult game. Owusu, who was dealing with a stomach bug per Frese, scored four points on 2-of-9 shooting and only played three minutes in the fourth quarter. Owusu and Miller only combined for one assist, as well.
“You look at their size from two through five, that length gave us fits,” Frese said.
The rest of Maryland’s lineup also had its struggles. Graduate student guard Katie Benzan did not record a point in her final collegiate game. Bibby scored 10 points but was only 1-of-7 from deep. Freshman guard Shyanne Sellers (10 points) and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins (six points) added respectable showings, but neither were enough to push Maryland over the hump.
“You put [sixth-year guard] Anna Wilson kind of as that pest defensively, I mean, she gave Katie no open looks,” Frese added. “Her defensive pressure and intensity was unbelievable. And for us, we knew we were gonna have to kind of score on that mid-range pull up game, but again that length, I think, really bothered us on the offensive end.”
The Terps fought in the fourth quarter, coming back from 26 down to losing only by six. But, Maryland was never within real striking distance, as it never had the ball trailing by fewer than two possessions down the stretch.