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No. 20 Maryland women’s basketball squeaks past Syracuse, 83-81

The Terps needed a last-second stop to defeat the previously unbeaten Orange.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

After battling to retake a two-possession lead late in the fourth quarter, Maryland women’s basketball found itself in a make-or-break situation against Syracuse on Sunday.

A 3-pointer from Syracuse guard Alaina Rice cut Maryland’s lead to just two with 20 seconds remaining. Maryland’s next possession saw Jakia Brown-Turner turn the ball over, which gave the Orange a chance to tie — or win — the game.

However, not a single Syracuse guard managed to get open, as Shyanne Sellers poked the ball away before the Orange could get a shot off, securing Maryland an 83-81 win.

The Terps were led by two brilliant individual performances.

Allie Kubek had the best game of her young Terps career. Coming off the bench, she provided a dump-off option for guards driving to the paint, finishing with 23 points on 71% shooting from the field.

Sellers, whose late-game defense proved crucial, had 19 points despite shooting under 50% from the field. She made up for poor shooting other ways, though, going a perfect 7-for-7 from the line and recording eight rebounds and five steals.

Following losses to both South Carolina and UConn, it was unclear how Maryland would perform against an undefeated Syracuse team. For a while, the Terps struggled to put much together on offense, shooting 32.4% from the field in the first half.

The matchup favored Syracuse on the boards, but Maryland put up a fight on the glass all game. The Terps outrebounded the Orange, 41-39, and more importantly, won the battle on the offensive glass, 17-13.

As the game went on, head coach Brenda Frese’s team picked up the pace on both offense and defense. Maryland’s full-court press forced multiple second-half turnovers, evidenced by its 19 points off turnovers in the final two quarters.

At one point in the third quarter, it looked like the effects of the press were beginning to wear off, as Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair hit two threes to give the Orange a seven-point lead.

Instead of falling into the same hole that suffocated them in their previous two games, the Terps gained motivation from the lapse. They went on an 8-0 run immediately after to retake the lead before the end of the third quarter.

Guard Georgia Woolley was a thorn in the side of Maryland all night as the Orange’s go-to player. She had 21 points and shot 7-for-16 from the field — but it wasn’t just the scoring that made her a threat. She found back-door cutters on the baseline and had three assists.

While the Terps ideally would have had an easier time handling the Orange, pulling Sunday’s game out of the fire was an important early-season experience for the team.

Three things to know

1. Maryland’s offense looked out of sync. Maryland has experienced a learning curve on offense. With new players still learning how to play within the system, shot selection and floor spacing has lacked precision, especially in Sunday’s first half. It marked the second straight game Maryland shot below 30% from three in the first half, and it shot 20% from three in the second half.

2. Hawa Doumbouya played her first real minutes. Freshman center Hawa Doumbouya played her first meaningful minutes of the season, with head coach Brenda Frese looking to establish a paint presence with both her and Kubek. Doumbouya would score her first collegiate basket with a put-back late in the second quarter.

3. Maryland does not look like a top-25 team. Losing to two top-10 opponents is understandable. However, two straight blowout losses and a narrow win against an unranked team right after is concerning. It looks like the Terps will be unranked this week for the first time since 2011, and it may be warranted.