The Cavaliers, who recently prevailed over NC State for a gratifying quadruple-overtime victory on February 10, earned a 10-point lead over the Terps with 6:28 left in the first half as junior Whitny Edwards (13 points) made a 3-pointer to put Virginia up, 17-7.
From the opening tip, the Cavaliers were especially aggressive, something that Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan attributes to their recent victory over the Wolfpack.
To win a game like that, it really helps your confidence, said Ryan.
Added to the equation was the fact that in the teams' last meeting, the Terps emerged victorious in a thrilling overtime win of their own, undoubtedly leaving the Cavaliers hungry for a chance to redeem themselves. Virginia came in here with a lot of intensity, playing with a lot of confidence, something to prove, said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese.
In contrast, the Terps, coming off a loss at No. 20/21 Miami, had trouble finding an offensive rhythm, noticeably struggling in the interior under pressure from the Cavaliers and often unable to execute plays.
Disappointing from our end, obviously, just not playing with the kind of poise, and confidence, and trust in one another on the offensive end, said Frese.
Sophomore Diandra Tchatchouang made two 3-pointers in 3 minutes to pull the Terps within 4 points, freshman Alyssa Thomas delivered on several impressive hustle plays, and junior Lynetta Kizer grabbed a steal and made a layup to tie the game at 23 with 1:04 remaining, but senior Paulisha Kellum hit two free throws to give the Cavaliers a 25-23 halftime lead.
At the end of the first half, the Terps were uncharacteristically outrebounded, 21-20, with a notable deficiency on the offensive boards, grabbing just 6. As a result, the Cavaliers outscored the Terps in second chance points 6-2.
The Terps, who normally pride themselves on their transition game, were also forced to play at the tempo set by Virginia, and neither team had any fast break points.
Although Thomas (14 points) and Kizer (12 points) assumed their usual roles as leading scorers, each was noticeably limited in productivity by the Cavaliers' interior defense.
Thomas and Kizer were both subject to double and triple teams throughout the game, and Thomas was restricted to just 5 points in the second half.
We had different players on [Thomas], said Ryan. We switched players on her, kept fresh players on her...[and] could take away some things.
[Maryland] is a great rebounding team, great size, great athleticism. We really had to try to neutralize some of the things that they had.
According to Frese, the Cavaliers' defense not only interfered with the Terps' effectiveness but their morale as well.
They were physical. I thought they were the tougher team, said Frese. And we stopped cutting hard, we would stop being aggressive [because of that].
For the Cavaliers, the same physicality that limited Thomas in the second half also translated to the offensive end, as they drew fouls and gained 19 free throw attempts in the second half, compared to 5 in the first. For the night, they were 19-24 from the line while the Terps were 14-20.
Although the game remained close throughout the second half, the Terps soon realized the shortcomings of neglecting to establish an early lead and ultimately could not successfully fight against the clock to secure a win.
Freshman Ataira Franklin hit a jumper with 1:17 remaining to put Virginia up by 3 points, 58-55, and as freshman Alicia DeVaughn grabbed a defensive rebound, the Terps called a timeout with 0:20 left in regulation.
Coming out of the timeout, the Terps could not execute the 3-point play they had originally devised, and instead junior Anjale Barrett hit a driving layup to erase the deficit to one point, 58-57.
With 0:11 left the Terps pressed the Cavaliers and fouled Edwards in order to obtain possession. However, Edwards, an 85% free throw shooter, made both free throws and Barrett missed a final 3-point attempt to end the game, 60-57.
We had a play to be able to get Kim [Rodgers] a shot, or Laurin [Mincy] on a flair, said Frese. But obviously our timing was bad on the screen, we didn't come off of it strong. So we didn't get the look that we wanted.
However, for Frese, the loss was representative of a larger issue that the Terps need to address.
I didn't really think it should've come down to that [play], said Frese. We've had three slow starts, and any time you're in ACC play you can't come out and play flat. We've got to be able to learn and understand just how good these teams are in league play, how we've got to start from the tip.
The Terps take on No. 5/7 Duke on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and Frese is eager to see her team move past today's game.
We've got to use this adversity to help make us tighter as a unit as we move forward, she declared.