No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball took the first step in making a deep tournament run Friday afternoon, cruising past No. 15-seed Holy Cross, 93-61.
Maryland led for all 40 minutes, and was up by as much as 36 late in the fourth quarter.
Up next is a much more formidable opponent in No. 7-seed Arizona, which made the national championship game just two seasons ago.
The round-of-32 bout is set for Sunday at the XFINITY Center.
Maryland dismantled its first-round opponent for the third straight season.
Head coach Brenda Frese moved to 18-0 in first round games as Maryland’s head coach. Her team got out to a 23-4 lead after the first quarter and never looked back against the Patriot League champions.
“We were able to kind of set that that tone on the defensive end,” Frese said. “So just loved the aggressiveness. And you could tell that yesterday in practice that we were going to be ready to play.”
Over the past three years, Maryland has outscored its opening-round opponents by a combined 116 points. The Terps scored at least 20 points in every quarter and led by over 20 points for the final 29:43 Friday.
A balanced scoring attack for all 40 minutes allowed Frese to give almost everyone a touch Friday. Maryland had five players score in double figures and was able to unload the bench late in the game. Everyone that played scored, including freshmen Gia Cooke and Ava Sciolla.
“I think [we] truly understand that it’s the NCAA Tournament and you know, it’s a time when families are in town for them to you know, go enjoy dinner and spend some time with their family,” Frese added. “But then understanding it’s a quick turnaround for rest and recovery and understanding the scout of what lies ahead.”
Holy Cross had no answer for a Big Ten offense.
No. 2 seeds are now 129-0 in opening-round matchups in women’s tournament history after Maryland’s victory. It’s an awfully tough task to ask low-major teams to stop high-major offenses, and the Terps demonstrated that against Holy Cross.
The Crusaders came into the game surrendering just over 55 points per game, but Maryland nearly equaled that by halftime, entering the break with a 52-21 advantage.
The Terps took full advantage of a smaller Crusaders squad, scoring 44 points in the paint.
“We knew we had the height advantage,” Frese said. “So we were really intentional in some of our play calls. And I thought the team was just really unselfish, being able to take what the defense gave us.”
Senior forward Brinae Alexander led all scorers with 18 points, and was able to find her stroke from distance in the second half as the Crusaders tried to collapse on the interior.
“We have so many girls that can also score at the same high level around me,” Alexander said. “I think that opened up the floor a lot.”
The Terps’ defense let up as the game continued, but their offense didn’t waver.
After surrendering just four points in the opening quarter, Holy Cross, despite its small stature and youth, found holes in Maryland’s legnthy defense as the game waned on.
In addition to doubling its shot attempts, the Crusaders’ efficiency shot way up, shooting at a 50% clip in the second quarter. Unfortunately for them, their defense had no answer to Diamond Miller and company.
“You look at the size difference between our guards and their guards and it’s just hard for our guards to see the passing lanes,” Holy Cross head coach Maureen Magarity said.
Still, Holy Cross continued to hit shots, even as Maryland extended its bench. It ended up scoring just one less point than Maryland in the second half.
For Maryland, it knows it will need to keep Arizona completely in check for 40 minutes to extend its season.
“At the start of the third quarter, we didn’t bring that same energy and intensity we did the first half,” senior guard Abby Meyers said. “It was a little disappointing. But I think that we’ll take this as a great lesson down the road. It’s March man, we’re gonna play all 40 minutes because any minute can be detrimental.”