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Ferocious third quarter powers No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball to Sweet 16 with 77-64 win over No. 7-seed Arizona

The Terps advanced to the regional semifinal for the third straight season.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Maryland Photo by Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Maryland women’s basketball had lost its last two round-of-32 matchups against Pac-12 teams.

The first came in 2016 in a 74-65 loss to Washington, which was led by a 32-point performance by now-Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum. The Terps’ second defeat came in 2019 after a 30-point showing from Michaela Onyenwere aided UCLA’s 85-80 upset victory. Maryland was the higher seeded team in both results.

On Sunday, No. 2 seed Maryland trailed seventh-seeded Arizona 33-32 at halftime after both teams traded dominant performances in the first two quarters of play.

Maryland senior guard Diamond Miller had a look of determination on her face entering the third quarter, as she looked to lead her team back in likely her final game at XFINITY Center. And that she did, scoring 13 points on a perfect six-for-six showing from the field in the frame.

Miller’s performance was part of a dominant 29-9 third quarter, leading Maryland to a 77-64 victory over Arizona on Sunday.

“It’s simple things that we were messing up on. Personally for me, I was just missing layups. We realized our defense in the second quarter definitely dropped [and] that was probably mainly because we weren’t scoring,” Miller said. “We still need to be consistent with our defense, so definitely tweaking some things.”

The Terps advanced to their third straight Sweet 16 and will take on No. 3-seed Notre Dame next weekend in Greenville, South Carolina.

Maryland started the game almost eerily similar to its first-round victory over No. 15-seed Holy Cross, with its defense setting the tone from the opening tip. On Arizona’s first three offensive possessions, the Terps defense forced a turnover, shot-clock violation and drew a charge on Cate Reese.

The Terps capitalized on their early defensive success with a quick 6-0 run, capped off by a full-court pass from sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers to a streaking Miller for a layup.

Maryland didn’t settle, instead using the energy of the crowd to increase its defensive pressure. The Terps forced seven first-quarter turnovers, which led to more opportunities in transition.

After Arizona trimmed its deficit to 12-8 after a 6-0 run, Maryland went on a 5-0 run over the last two minutes of the first quarter to take a commanding 17-8 lead.

After Maryland’s defense set the stage in the opening quarter, it replicated its dominance in the first few minutes of the second. Arizona guard Shaina Pellington pushed the pace in transition, but Sellers remained glued to her hip. Pellington leaped for a layup but was denied by a ferocious Sellers.

On the ensuing possession, Maryland senior guard Brinae Alexander sunk a corner 3-pointer to extend the lead to 20-8.

But Arizona would enjoy success in the paint, embarking on an extended 16-5 to cut its deficit to 25-24.

The Wildcats continued their hot streak with a focus on dominating Maryland’s interior defense with a peek of electricity from deep. With under two minutes remaining until intermission, Arizona guard Lauren Fields drained her team’s lone 3-pointer of the first half to even the game at 29.

A swift pair of layups by Reese and guard Paris Clark helped Arizona take a slim 33-32 lead at halftime.

Arizona scored 26 first-half points in the paint juxtaposed to Maryland’s six, as the former consistently finished contested drives to the basket.

Maryland reclaimed a one-point lead early in the third quarter. On the Terps’ next two possessions, Miller scored five consecutive points — a layup and 3-pointer — to stretch their lead to 39-33.

With under four minutes left in the third quarter and leading 45-37, Miller delivered a crisp pass to Masonius for a layup to extend Maryland’s lead to 10.

“I think it started with Diamond’s lead and how aggressive she was but not only with her scoring, she made big plays for everyone else. I thought we started to share the basketball, settle [in], less turnovers that allowed us to be able to take that lead,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.

Maryland’s offense continued its hot start to the quarter, as Sellers’ speed produced two layups to cap off an 8-2 run.

The Terps pummeled Arizona in the third quarter with a wide 29-9 scoring margin to take a convincing 61-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter. With a formidable lead already in hand, Maryland’s offense looked to stretch its separation.

Sellers and Briggs combined for five straight points to open the fourth, giving Maryland a game-high 66-42 lead with eight and a half minutes to play.

Maryland’s electric third-quarter performance had all but wrapped up the result, sending the Terps to the Sweet 16.

Three things to know

1. Maryland advanced to its third consecutive Sweet 16. The Terps wasted little time starting fast on both ends of the floor Sunday. Maryland shot 53.6% from the field with four players scoring in double figures. Its defense forced seven early turnovers, which breathed life into its transition offense. Maryland’s third-quarter dominance couldn’t be stopped, as it moved on to its third consecutive Sweet 16.

2. Diamond Miller made her presence felt in the third quarter. After playing a strong opening quarter, Maryland prematurely took its foot off the gas — Arizona charged back and eventually took a slim lead heading into halftime. With the final 20 minutes of play at XFINITY Center remaining, Miller took over the game in a multitude of ways during the third quarter. Miller scored 13 third-quarter points on 6-of-6 shooting and could not be stopped on drives to the rim. When push came to shove, Miller wouldn’t be denied.

3. What’s next for Maryland? The Terps will face No. 3-seed Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 next weekend at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Maryland and Notre Dame met earlier this year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That game resulted in guard Diamond Miller hitting a one-legged game-winning fadeaway to clinch the Terps a 74-72 victory. Notre Dame’s All-American point guard Olivia Miles is out for the season with a knee injury, though, taking some juice out of a highly anticipated rematch.