With just under two minutes remaining in the first half, No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball looked to put an exclamation point on one of its most dominant halves of the season against No. 7-seed Alabama.
Sophomore guard Ashley Owusu drove into a crowd of Crimson Tide players in the paint after the Terps forced a turnover and put up a contested floater that made its way in the basket to keep Maryland’s lead over 20.
On the ensuing possession for Alabama, Owusu stripped a Crimson Tide player at mid-court, which sprung senior forward Chloe Bibby in transition. Bibby bobbled the ball driving into Alabama’s paint, but corralled it and dished it to a streaking sophomore forward in Faith Masonius, who easily put in the uncontested layup to give Maryland its 50th point of the half as the Terps capped of a six-point run in just over a minute of play.
The run finished off a near-perfect first half for the Terps and propelled Maryland the rest of the way, as it used its red-hot shooting performance to cruise to a 100-64 victory over Alabama Wednesday afternoon to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017.
“I think we make a statement every time we get to play,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “We’ve always just let our actions speak for itself, and I love that we’re dominating the game, but we’re doing it the right way. We’re doing it by playing the right way, by playing a beautiful brand of basketball to be quite honest.”
This win marks the seventh time that the Terps have scored at least 100 points this season. They came into this game averaging 91.5 points per game, which is leading the country and the highest in men or women’s program history. The team’s 198 points through two NCAA Tournament games sets a new Big Ten record.
With Maryland (26-2) officially knocking out No. 7-seed Alabama (17-10), it’ll take on the winner of No. 6-seed Texas and No. 3-seed UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen this weekend. That game is set to tip off at 9 p.m. tonight to decide which team will face the Terps in the next round.
The Terps are now 14-11 all-time in Second Round games in the NCAA Tournament and 9-7 in the Round of 32 under Frese. The program is now 1-1 against Alabama in its history, as its only previous matchup ended in a 71-56 win for the Crimson Tide on Dec. 22, 2001.
Maryland started the game similarly to how it did against Mount St. Mary’s, as it scored the first bucket of the game with a right-wing jumper from redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins off an assist from Owusu to kick things off in the opening minute.
Collins went on to score the Terps’ first nine points of the game, as she hit a few mid-range jumpers and a three-pointer from the right corner to put Maryland up 9-4 in the first quarter with 6:44 left.
Maryland continued to nail its three-point shots, as it connected on three of its first four attempts from long range. Sophomore guard Diamond Miller, senior guard Katie Benzan and Collins all hit at least one three in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
The Terps dominated the remainder of the opening quarter with their marksman-like shooting. Maryland sprung out on a 24-5 run over the last five minutes of the frame to extend its lead to 21 before the second quarter arrived.
The second quarter saw Maryland continue to have a consistent offensive attack as it never allowed Alabama to make any kind of comeback. Both teams traded buckets for the majority of the quarter, but every time that the Crimson Tide put points on the board, Maryland had its offensive response.
With 4:40 remaining in the half, seven of the Terps’ players had already recorded at least one point. Masonius led the way in scoring for Maryland in the first half, as she totaled 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting clip. She had a career-high 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the win, along with five rebounds.
Maryland finished the half up 54-25, as it connected on 68% of its shots. The Terps also went 5-for-8 from deep, as four different Maryland players hit a shot from three-point range after the first 20 minutes. It was the 14th time this season the Terps scored at least 50 points in the first half, which leads Division I women’s basketball. The team’s bench had a whopping 24 of those points.
The start of the second half saw Alabama come out with a strong response as it looked to crawl back into the game to keep its season alive.
The Crimson Tide went on a quick 11-4 run with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter, which forced a timeout from Frese. Senior forward Jasmine Walker, who came into this game averaging 19.0 points per game, scored five of her 23 points on the run.
But coming out of the timeout, Maryland once again had its response.
Owusu, who scored eight of her 10 points in the third quarter, nailed a mid-range jump shot near the left corner to put Maryland’s lead back up to 60-26. The Terps then came back on the offensive end with another answer, as Bibby took the feed from Owusu and connected on a left-wing three-pointer to extend Maryland’s lead even further.
The Terps finished the third frame on cruise control, making over 64% of their shots for the third straight quarter to lead by 33 heading into the final 10 minutes.
“Obviously it’s a lot of fun seeing that,” Masonius said on what it’s like to look up at the scoreboard with a massive lead. “You’re like, okay we’re about to move on, we’re going to Sweet Sixteen. And especially, I know for my class it’s very special because last year we got the NCAA taken away from us, so this our first time we truly have nothing to lose, so we’re putting everything out on that floor.”
Maryland was able to waltz through the fourth quarter, maintaining its 30-plus point lead en route to the victory.
The Terps scored 21 points in the final frame, which pushed their overall point total to 100 on the afternoon. Maryland went on to shoot 62% from the field and 41% from three-point range, and five different players had at least 10 points on the Terps’ roster as the clock expired.
“I think every game we come out, we make a statement,” Masonius said. “We’re a great team and whether other people see that or not, we know that in our hearts, we like to lay low, keep our heads down and just do the work. We come in every day, do the work and get in, get out and do what we do.”
Three Things To Know
1. Maryland’s dominant first quarter sealed the deal. Usually, it takes around 40 minutes of basketball to declare a winner. However, after the first 10 minutes, it was pretty clear as to which team would advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Maryland shot 12-for-17 (71%) in the opening quarter and limited Alabama to just nine points. The Terps also hit four of their first six three-point attempts, as they went on a 24-5 run to push its lead to 21 after 10 minutes of play. The Terps never relinquished the lead from that quarter on, and it was another easy win — on a stage where that isn’t often said.
2. Freshman forward Angel Reese had a very strong day for the Terps. Reese played just 19 minutes, but clearly gave her best effort on the floor as Maryland thumped Alabama. The freshman collected 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while chipping in with five rebounds and two assists. Less than a month from returning from a foot injury that kept here out most of the season, the five-star prospect’s performance shows why she is one of the best young forwards in the country, and her efforts continue to push Maryland over the top.
“I feel more comfortable and just trusting the coaches and trusting my teammates, and the game it’s just falling into my hands,” Reese said. “I feel really confident right now, and that’s what’s happening right now. I feel like I am back and this was one of my best games.”
3. Maryland has won 15 games in-a-row. The Terps’ win over the Crimson Tide marked yet another win to their already strong resume. Maryland has won 15 straight games dating back all the way to Jan. 25, when it last lost to then-No. 17 Ohio State by two points in the regular season. The Terps have scored at least 80 points in all but one of their wins during their current run.
First, Maryland swept the Big Ten Tournament en route to their fifth title in seven years. Now, the Terps have swiftly advanced past two teams in the NCAA Tournament. Maryland continues to pounce on its opponents as its heads into the Sweet Sixteen for the ninth time under Frese.
“What I love about this team is they just have continued to just keep putting their head down and going to work and just really haven’t paid any attention to any of that extra noise out there,” Frese said. “This group is super competitive and they just want to get better every single day.”