No. 2 seed Maryland women’s basketball (26-3) fell to No. 6-seed Texas, 64-61, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament Sunday night.
The Terps had a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Longhorns stormed back with a 7-0 run to capture the win to advance to the Elite Eight.
The loss marks the conclusion of the Terps’ season and the first time that Maryland had suffered a defeat since Jan. 25. The Terps are now 10-4 all-time in Sweet 16 matchups and 6-3 under Maryland head coach Brenda Frese.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the season-ending loss.
Maryland’s poor offensive showing led to the defeat
Maryland entered the Sweet 16 against Texas with the top-scoring offense and the third best field goal percentage in the country.
The Terps scored 90 points in 16 of its 29 games this season, as well as 198 points through its first two tournament games, but this time in San Antonio, the Longhorns’ defense bested the usually red-hot offense.
Maryland was limited to just 61 points through 40 minutes, which marked its fewest amount of points scored in a game this season. The Terps’ previous low was 62 points, which came in a win against Northwestern back on Feb. 28.
“I thought you saw the physicality, I mean defensively, they were very aggressive,” Frese said. “I mean we had a hard time getting open on the wings, we had a hard time getting downhill, we weren’t able to, you know, normally you see our offense flow from side-to-side, you didn’t see a lot of that.”
The Terps came into the game averaging 91.8 points per game on nearly 50% shooting as a team. On Sunday night, however, Maryland was limited by Texas’ swarming defense. The Terps’ shot 40% from the field and went just 5-for-22 (23%) from the three-point range in the loss.
Maryland entered the game with six players averaging double-digits in scoring, but finished the Sweet 16 with just three players on the roster with over 10 points scored.
Redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins, senior guard Katie Benzan, freshman forward Angel Reese and sophomore forward Faith Masonius combined for just 14 of the Terps’ 61 points. That same group of players shot just 6-for-22 from the field.
It was one of the worst offensive performances of the entire Maryland season and a huge factor in why the Terps won't find themselves advancing to the Elite Eight.
“We got to go home and reflect and think on this time, but use it as fuel to get better,” senior forward Chloe Bibby said. “I think we got outrebounded tonight and it was just those little things...we just have to use this experience that we got and move forward.”
The majority of the Terps’ forwards struggled in the loss
Maryland’s guards carried the bulk of the weight for the Terps’ scoring efforts in the loss.
Standout sophomore guard Ashley Owusu, who came into the game leading the Terps in scoring with an average of 18.1 points per game, had just 10 points but added four rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard Diamond Miller had the best game out of any Maryland player and totaled a game-high 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting while chipping in with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks as well.
Even with the guards getting the job done, it was Maryland’s forwards that couldn't seem to get in a rhythm all night long.
Collins, who normally averages 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, put up just four points on 2-for-4 shooting, along with five rebounds, two assists and one rebound. The starting forward didn’t tally a point for the first three quarters.
Reese, the five-star forward that has been a force inside for Maryland since coming back from injury, went 0-for-6 from the floor and didn’t collect a single point in just nine minutes played on the court.
Senior forward Alaysia Styles and Masonius combined for six points in what was a long day on the court for Maryland’s starting five.
The only forward to have a decent night was Bibby, who collected 14 points on 50% shooting overall. Still, she hit just two of her seven three-point attempts.
Collins, Reese, Styles and Masonius all had rough nights on the court when it mattered most, and it forced the Terps’ guards to force feed the ball into the hoop.
“I think our inexperience did show tonight,” Bibby said. “You know this is the first time that they’ve had the big lights on them for a lot of our team, but I think that’s great exposure. I mean you need that you need those moments... I think this will fuel us going forward.”
The Maryland women’s basketball season ends in heartbreak after a campaign of dominance
A No. 2-seed getting eliminated in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament should be considered underperforming. The loss was clearly heartbreaking for many members of this team, as it couldn’t avoid the eventual upset to the Longhorns.
However, what Maryland was able to accomplish over the course of the season should not be overlooked, especially during a pandemic, and it’ll have a loaded roster come next season to pick up where it left off.
With five new starters, Maryland finished the regular season atop the Big Ten standings with an overall 21-2 record and an astonishing 17-1 record in a conference that was more competitive than any year in recent memory. The league had a record four teams make the Sweet 16.
Maryland then went on to steamroll its fellow conference opponents in the Big Ten tournament. The Terps beat the likes of Nebraska, Northwestern and then Iowa to capture the program’s fifth Big Ten Title in the last seven seasons.
The dominance didn’t stop there, as the Terps combined for 198 points in the first two wins of the NCAA Tournament before getting bounced by Texas.
Not only did Maryland win 26 of its 29 games played, but the accolades this team received were also plentiful. ESPN and The Athletic named Frese the National Coach of the Year earlier this month and she was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Owusu and Miller earned All-Big Ten First Team honors and Benzan was named to the Second Team. Bibby and Collins earned Honorable Mention honors, while Reese was named to the All-Freshman Team.
It was a year of success and accolades for the high-flying Terps, who finished the season averaging the most points per game in the nation.
“So many great things for us to be proud of and for us to be able to build upon as we move forward for next year,” Frese said.
Maryland’s final game was a deflating performance, however, one loss shouldn’t overshadow what this team was able to accomplish over the course of the 2020-21 campaign.
“Just how proud I was,” Frese said of what she told her team after the game. “In this entire season, what it took, you know, through this pandemic for us to go all season long with the discipline that they had in order for us to be able to play. I thought they brought a lot of great joy to our fans to our program.”