No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball will face No. 15-seed Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The game will be played at XFINITY Center in College Park at approximately 2:30 p.m., following the conclusion of West Virginia vs. Arizona.
The Terps (25-6) lost 89-84 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to eventual champion Iowa on March 4. Prior to its defeat, Maryland was on a seven-game winning streak, with three wins coming against opponents ranked in the top 25.
Holy Cross (24-8) clinched its 12th Patriot League championship with a narrow 66-61 defeat of Boston University on March 12. Junior guard Bronagh Power-Cassidy’s 21 points, five rebounds and five assists in the Patriot League Tournament final earned her conference tournament MVP honors.
This marks the first meeting between Maryland and Holy Cross, as the victor looks to advance to Sunday’s round of 32 clash.
Maryland is looking to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the 12th consecutive season, while Holy Cross is looking to bust brackets with an upset on its counterpart’s home court.
Holy Cross Crusaders (24-8, 13-5 Patriot League)
Holy Cross is led by head coach Maureen Magarity, who’s in her third year overseeing the women’s basketball program. Prior to joining Holy Cross, she served 10 years as the head coach at New Hampshire.
Since arriving at Holy Cross, Magarity has succeeded with a 51-27 record along with an impressive 34-16 slate in conference play.
In her second season guiding the Crusaders, she earned Patriot League Coach of the Year after registering a 20-11 record. That successful season culminated in Holy Cross’ first Patriot League regular-season title since the 2004-05 season.
Magarity is not a stranger to rejuvenating a program, as she led New Hampshire to winning seasons in three of her first five seasons at the helm.
If past history is an indication of the future, Holy Cross figures to be in good hands with Magarity roaming the sidelines.
Players to know
Bronagh Power-Cassidy, junior guard, 5-foot-10, No. 13 — The 2022-23 All-Patriot League second-team honoree led Holy Cross in scoring with 13.9 points per game. Power-Cassidy has scored in double figures 23 times while saving her best performances for postseason play. In Holy Cross’ Patriot League semifinal victory over Lehigh, Power-Cassidy scored a season-high 27 points with an impressive 5-for-10 showing from three-point range. The 5-foot-10 guard is efficient at moving without the basketball, as she constantly searches for open areas to catch the ball for scoring opportunities. Power-Cassidy ranked third in the Patriot League with a 46.5% percentage from the field paired with an effective 40% clip from distance.
Janelle Allen, junior forward, 5-foot-11, No. 10 — The junior forward is one of three Holy Cross players averaging 10 points or more this season; she averages 10.6 points per game. Allen started Holy Cross’ conference tournament strong with 19 points in its 73-44 victory over American. In the championship game, Allen scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. She’s consistently looking to establish a physical interior presence early and often, so it is paramount for Maryland to contest her shots without getting into foul trouble.
Lindsay Berger, sophomore forward, 6-foot-2, No. 35 — Berger enjoyed a respectable sophomore campaign, as she’s been able to score with ease and make an impact on the glass. The 6-foot-2 sophomore ranked seventh in the Patriot League with 6.6 rebounds per game. After not starting a single game in her freshman season for Holy Cross, Berger responded with 26 starts in 32 games and a 52.6% average from the field. Berger will look to use her size to dominate an undersized Maryland team.
Defense. Holy Cross has been stifling offenses the entire season, as it is second in the Patriot League with 54.8 points allowed per game. The Crusaders’ defense has yet to relinquish 80 points while holding opponents to a 36.9% percentage from the field. Under Magarity’s leadership, Holy Cross consistently makes swift defensive rotations and forces errant shots. In order for the Crusaders to pull off the upset, their defense will have to be exceptional to neutralize an explosive Maryland offense.
Scoring. When a team is 24-8 and recently won its conference title, it could be considered nitpicking when searching for a weakness. However, the Achilles’ heel of Holy Cross appears to be its offense. The Crusaders average 61.8 points per game, which ranks 242nd of 361 teams in Division I. In 19 of 24 Holy Cross regular-season victories, it failed to score at least 70 points. The NCAA Tournament is lauded for its unpredictability and excitement, so Holy Cross would be wise to upgrade this area as it looks to advance to the next round.
Three things to watch
1. How will the Terps begin their championship quest? Maryland shattered preseason expectations and had one of its best seasons to date under head coach Brenda Frese. The Terps went 25-6 with notable victories over Iowa, Baylor, UConn, and Ohio State (twice). When bracket was released on Sunday, many fans were surprised to learn that the selection committee chose the Terps as the lowest two seed. Maryland will hope to use its seeding as motivation heading into Friday’s matchup, as it looks to advance past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014-15.
2. What to expect from Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs? When surveying the landscape of top reserve duos, it is difficult to not have Maryland senior guards Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs on the list. Alexander, a Vanderbilt transfer, has embraced her new role and scored in double figures 11 times this season. The last time Maryland played at XFINITY Center, Alexander, and Briggs showed out with a combined 43 points on a 9 of 12 showing from three-point range. Briggs, a Florida transfer, returned to the floor after suffering a lower-leg injury during her playing days in Gainesville. The 6-foot-1 guard has a tight handle and has shown the ability to score on all three levels.
Alexander and Briggs are 1,000-point scorers and have added a different dynamic to Maryland’s offense. Their scoring could hold the keys to the Terps’ postseason destination.
3. Can the Terps exploit a stingy Holy Cross defense? When the schedule shifts to March, most teams rely on their strengths to advance further in the tournament. Friday’s game is shaping up to be strength on strength: Maryland’s offense versus Holy Cross’s defense. The Terps offense, led by senior guard Diamond Miller, ranks 13th nationally with 79 points per game and has played a gauntlet of a schedule in the ultra-competitive Big Ten.
Holy Cross only gives up 54.8 points per game (17th in NCAA) and has allowed just three opponents to reach the 70-point threshold. The Crusaders have been effective at shutting down their opponents, but Maryland’s offense presents a challenge that they have yet to compete against.