Maryland women’s basketball trailed Minnesota by as many as 16 points on Thursday night, and with under a minute to go, the Terrapins were facing a seven-point deficit.
They shouldn’t have won. The odds were completely against them, and in fact, Minnesota had a 99.8 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s win probability model.
So how did the Terps emerge victorious, and in the process, reclaim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings? Let’s take a look.
Kaila Charles was coming off arguably the worst performance of her career on Sunday against Iowa. In the loss, the junior scored just two points on 1-of-13 shooting and came up short in a number of clutch situations.
“I wasn’t really worried about that game,” Charles said. “My teammates and my coach was telling me, ‘You’re going to bounce back, things are going to work out.’ You’re going to have bad games here and there and you just got to be able to play through it.”
Against Minnesota, Maryland hoped she would bounce back and be the leader she’s been all season. And when Brianna Fraser went down in the first quarter with an injury, the Terrapins needed Charles to be at her absolute best. In the fourth quarter, she came alive and showed just how good she can be when she’s on.
Charles finished the game with 29 points on 13-of-23 shooting, hitting clutch basket after clutch basket to bring home the win for Maryland. That broke her season-high in scoring, and was just three points shy of a 32-point performance against Ohio State last January.
“You always want that to play out the way it did for Kaila,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “The responsibility that she holds and wants. To come off of a tough game at Iowa to then flip it back that quickly and have this game is why she’s such a tremendous winner and a competitor and why we trust her so much.”
After corralling a rebound following a missed layup with 65 seconds to go, Channise Lewis fed Charles at halfcourt, who drove towards the basket to cut into the deficit. However, on a night of missed opportunities for the team as a whole to that point, she missed. 6’5 Shakira Austin was in position to get the offensive rebound and get a second-chance basket. But she missed as well.
ESPN Win Probability: 99.8 percent, Minnesota
But somehow, Charles was there to bring in a second consecutive rebound, and she made a putback layup with 50 seconds to go.
But still down five points late, escaping defeat would be next to impossible.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, the Gophers got the ball into Destiny Pitts, their best player on the night. But she was closely guarded by Lewis, who drew the crucial offensive foul that gave Pitts her fifth foul, knocking her out of the game.
Lewis then took the ball for Maryland’s inbounds play, finding a cutting Stephanie Jones under the basket for a layup. Jones, ever the clutch player down low, was able to not only make the shot, but also draw a foul and hit the free throw that accompanied it.
ESPN Win Probability: 86.2 percent, Minnesota
That made the score 69-67 with 49.3 seconds to go, but Maryland still had long odds to win the game. The Gophers had possession and the ability to run the game clock down to under 20 seconds thanks to the 30-second shot clock.
Maryland was playing tough defense, as a basket would essentially end the game. Charles got too aggressive, and she committed a reach-in foul at the 29.2 mark. She argued against the call, but it reset the shot clock and was going to start the fouling game.
ESPN Win Probability: 90.3 percent, Minnesota
Charles’ foul was a blessing in disguise, as on Minnesota’s inbound, Jones was able to knock the ball free and go to the ground to get a held ball. The Terrapins had the possession arrow, and they gave themselves 26.1 seconds to either tie the score or take the lead.
ESPN Win Probability: 80.4 percent, Minnesota
Brenda Frese called timeout to put her best play into action, and the Terps executed perfectly. With 12 seconds to go and down by a basket, Mikesell handed the ball off to Charles just inside halfcourt. Jones set a pick on the right side of the defender, but Charles didn’t use it. She saw something in the defense that told her to do otherwise.
“They were really playing me to my left hand,” Charles said. “I’m right-handed. So when I saw the lane open, I just drove and I was able to finish.”
Seeing a hole to the basket, she drove past three defenders for an easy layup at the rack with 6.6 seconds to go. After being down seven points with under a minute to play, Maryland had finally tied the score.
ESPN Win Probability: 54.9 percent, Minnesota
Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen called timeout to try to draw up a game-winning play, but at that point, her team seemed defeated. The score was tied, but the Gophers had blown a huge lead in the final minute of play. If this game got to overtime, it felt like there was little chance they could pull off the upset.
Frese had Austin, her tallest player, guard the inbounder, 5’8 Jasmine Brunson. The guard from Queens tried to get an entry pass in to Kenisha Bell, but the freshman center was able to use her outstretched right arm to deflect the pass.
Where did the ball land? In the arms of Charles. Of course it did. Already having 27 points on the night and bringing her team all the way back to set up a chance to win in overtime, the Terrapins’ leading scorer did what she does best: score.
“When [Shakira Austin] deflected it, I just saw the ball up and I was just like, ‘Go get it,’” Charles said. “I knew we had like four or five seconds, so I was just trying to get to the rim and maybe drive...”
She had two defenders to beat, including Bell, one of the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalists. Jones was flanking Charles to the right, and that’s where Bell was leaning.
Charles went right last time to tie the game, and this time around, she took it herself and went left. Bell was too late to adjust, and seconds later, the game was over.
ESPN Win Probability: 100 percent, Maryland
“This ranks up there, when you talk about just a really incredible, special win for us,” Frese said. “I just love the way we had to fight and claw and scratch. I think it speaks volumes to the character and competitiveness that we have in this locker room.”