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Furious comeback lifts Maryland women’s basketball over Minnesota, 71-69

The No. 8 Terps erase a 16-point deficit to win at the buzzer.

Maryland women’s basketball Kaila Charles vs. Georgia Tech Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Kaila Charles had her worst performance of the season last game against Iowa, scoring just two points on 1-of-13 shooting. But against Minnesota at home on Thursday, she scored 29 points, including game-tying and game-winning baskets in the final 10 seconds, to give Maryland women’s basketball a much-needed 71-69 victory.

The No. 8 Terrapins were staring at their second consecutive loss, trailing by as many as 16 points in the third quarter. But Maryland made a late comeback and ended the game on a 9-0 run in the last 50 seconds to win.

Charles’ game-high 29 points came on 13-of-23 shooting, and the junior added eight rebounds and the game-tying and game-winning layups. Taylor Mikesell scored 15 points while shooting 5-of-12 from the field, but all five of her made baskets were from beyond the arc on only nine attempts, and she played a game-high 38 minutes.

Maryland’s defense had trouble all night guarding Minnesota’s top two scorers. Destiny Pitts led the way with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and that included a 5-of-10 performance from beyond the arc. She was aided by Kenisha Bell, who scored 21 points on her own by making eight of her 16 field goal attempts.

Iowa got off to a strong start against Maryland on Sunday, and Minnesota did the same just a few days later. Six minutes into the game, Maryland found itself trailing 15-7. A Sara Vujacic three-pointer seemed to energize the team and the crowd, but on the very next possession, disaster ensued.

At the 3:07 mark of the first quarter, Jasmine Brunson made a layup and Brianna Fraser leapt for the potential rebound that never came to pass. She came down on the foot of a Minnesota player. The senior forward badly rolled her left ankle and stayed down for a couple moments, ultimately heading to the locker room. She emerged a few minutes later on crutches with a cast on her ankle, and while the exact severity of the injury is unknown, it seems as though the training staff will be very cautious in bringing her back.

A quick 5-0 for the Terps cut the deficit to two, but a Pitts three-pointer pushed the Minnesota lead to 20-15 to end the first period. Maryland kept it close early in the second quarter, and Jones’ layup with four minutes left in the half cut the score to 32-28, but the Gophers went on a nuclear run. They scored the next eight points of the game in a 15-second span, thanks to a three-pointer from Pitts and an and-one from Bell. That gave Minnesota a 12-point lead with just over three minutes to go in the half.

Mikesell hit a triple to cut the deficit to single digits, but Pitts and Bell immediately responded with five straight points to push it up to 14. Following a pair of Channise Lewis free throws, Mikesell came up clutch at the buzzer with a long bomb from downtown to make the score 45-36 heading into the break.

Even with a full halftime to adjust, Maryland seemed lost without Fraser at both ends of the court. Thanks to Pitts, Brunson and Bell, Minnesota scored nine of the first 11 points of the second half to balloon its lead to 16 points, the largest margin of the game. Needing a boost, the Terps turned to their best player. Charles scored the next eight points for Maryland, only split by a Minnesota triple. That cut the deficit to 11 points, and that’s where it would stay entering the fourth quarter.

Thanks to Charles’ leadership, Maryland continued to cut into the lead. She scored five of the first eight points of the quarter to get the deficit down to seven, and after a Bell layup, Mikesell came up clutch. The freshman nailed triples on consecutive possessions to cut the score to 65-60 with 5:28 to play, and after the teams traded baskets, Minnesota led 67-62 with 4:26 to play. For the next 2:28, zero points were scored between the teams. Bell hit a layup to make the Gophers’ lead 69-62, and then Maryland took over.

Charles hit a layup to cut the deficit to five points at the 50-second mark, and then on the ensuing possession, Minnesota was called for an offensive foul. Stephanie Jones was fed the ball down low immediately on the inbounds pass, and she converted an and-one to make the score 69-67 with 44 seconds to go.

On Minnesota’s next possession, Charles was called for a foul at the 29.2 mark. On the inbounds pass, Maryland gained possession on a held ball and called timeout. After holding for over 20 seconds, Charles drove to the basket for a game-tying layup with just under seven seconds to go.

She stole the ball on Minnesota’s pass from the sideline, and fought her way to the rack to win the game at the buzzer, encapsulating a career-defining performance.

Three things to know

1. Kaila Charles saved the day. Simply put, the Terrapins couldn’t have a second consecutive loss. Maryland was down 69-62 with 1:58 to play when the team went on a 9-0 run to close the game. Six of those points belonged to Charles, who hit a game-tying layup at the 6.6 mark of the fourth quarter to even things up. And instead of going to overtime, she stole the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court to win the game at the buzzer.

2. Brianna Fraser is hurt. Lost in all of this will be the injury to the senior forward, who went down with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter and exited the game immediately, first retiring to the bench and ultimately heading to the locker room. When Fraser emerged, she was on crutches and had a cast on her left ankle. Updates will come as they are known.

3. Amazingly, Maryland is now back atop the Big Ten. While the Terps fell behind big, Iowa took an early lead at Indiana. A loss would have dropped Maryland to second place in the Big Ten standings, and since Iowa has the tiebreaker, that would have effectively ended the Terps’ chances of clinching the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. But Maryland pulled out the miracle victory, and Iowa blew a 16-point lead to the Hoosiers and lost by two. So now Maryland is alone in first and controls its own destiny with two games remaining.

This story has been updated to reflect Iowa blowing a 16-point lead to put Maryland back in first place.