Maryland women’s basketball has appeared in the past three Sweet 16s of the NCAA Tournament, each ending in heartbreaking fashion.
The Terps were on the ropes in the second quarter Saturday versus Notre Dame, as they trailed 32-31 heading into halftime.
Maryland delivered the knockout punch in the third quarter, which eventually led to a 76-59 victory to advance to its first Elite Eight since 2015.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s action.
Maryland flipped the switch in third quarter.
The Terps started fast with a 16-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, forcing eight Notre Dame turnovers during that frame.
In the ensuing period, Maryland struggled to penetrate Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone, tallying five turnovers along with a troubling 4-for-11 showing from the field.
“We started the game [strong] defensively. I thought we were really aggressive [with] being able to force them into some turnovers. Notre Dame kind of settled in and had their way with us in the second quarter,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
Maryland entered the locker room trailing by one point, and it looked to quickly get back into the game.
The Terps dominated the third quarter with a 26-13 advantage after their defense’s nine forced turnovers allowed them to make plays in transition.
Maryland sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers played the entire period, chipping in nine points, two rebounds, and two assists. She was decisive in her strong drives to the basket, also pushing the pace in transition to create for others.
“I think just being more aggressive for me in the second half [and] trying to get more downhill. I think we were settling a little too much in the first half with outside jumpers, so I’m kind of just keeping that in mind,” Sellers said.
In the Terps’ past two games, they have outscored their opponents in the third quarter by a dominant 55-22 margin.
Whenever the Terps stumble in a quarter, their response in the next frame usually is a complete 180.
Shyanne Sellers and Diamond Miller took over in the second half.
When push came to shove for Maryland, it relied on arguably its two best players to reverse the script: Miller and Sellers.
Miller, a unanimous All-Big Ten first-team honoree, struggled to convert easy looks at the rim and seemed frustrated throughout the first half. The Terps’ No. 1 logged 20 minutes, but only scored four points on a 1-for-4 showing from the field.
“I’m missing way too many chippies at the rim. Luckily, we have practice tomorrow. So I get to really work on that by finishing at the flick of the wrist but yeah, it’s part of the process. You make baskets [and] you miss, it’s basketball,” Miller said.
The 6-foot-3 guard poured in 14 points during the final 20 minutes of play, draining four of her five free-throw attempts.
Miller was not alone in her resurgent efforts, as Sellers brought her two-way skillset to Greenville, too.
Sellers is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten and it was on display versus Notre Dame. The Ohio native used her outstanding lateral agility to stifle ball-handlers. She also took a couple of charges.
“Sellers, I felt like she did a great job against us in South Bend and today. She was phenomenal, leading the team, being aggressive offensively [and] defensively,” Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said. “She got some defensive stops and [drew some] charges. She made some really good heads-up plays. She plays with a ton of confidence and the team goes as she goes.”
One of Sellers’ biggest improvements this season has been her ability to score, and it was needed in Saturday’s tilt. After scoring a mere two points in the first half, Sellers’ aggressiveness elicited 16 points over the final two quarters of play.
The duo of Sellers and Miller combined for a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
“They were taking a lot of the defensive presence from them, but just being the winners that they are,” Frese said. “They trusted their teammates, regrouped in the second half and I thought you saw those two be really aggressive to make plays, [also] getting to the free-throw line and getting them in foul trouble.”
The Terps will need another strong performance from Miller and Sellers as they set their sights on an Elite Eight showdown on Monday night.
Brenda Frese silenced the doubters.
If you’ve been following Maryland women’s basketball over the past 12 months, then you’re very familiar with their large roster turnover this season.
Frese, a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, lost 85% of last year’s team’s scoring to the transfer portal or graduation.
Frese didn’t rest on her laurels. Instead, the championship-winning coach registered arguably the most impressive season of her career. She guided Maryland to its 19th consecutive 20-win season, all while experiencing a significant amount of adversity. During the 2022 season, she lost her father Bill while navigating on-the-court struggles as well.
“It was no surprise last year both personally and professionally losing my dad and it was a really hard year. It was a locker room that was me centered versus we centered.” Frese said
The program’s all-time winning coach’s victory over Notre Dame sent Maryland to the Elite Eight for the first time in seven seasons.
Frese has creatively maximized her team’s strength despite lacking size from previous seasons. In Saturday’s victory, Frese used her signature 1-2-2 full court press to control the pace and force an abundance of turnovers.
One thing’s for sure: the Maryland women’s basketball program remains in good hands with Frese roaming the sidelines. With her there, the Terps remain title contenders.
Now, Frese and the Terps will look to become the first team to dethrone the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks.