Dramatic Comeback Keeps Terps Perfect

Down 20 with 17:39 left, the Terps staged a giant comeback to top the Yellow Jackets, 77-74.

When Metra Walthour hit a three-pointer to put Georgia Tech up 20 points with 17:39 left in the game, the No. 5 Maryland Terrapins undefeated record appeared to be quickly slipping away. The Terps had just committed four turnovers in one minute, and the Yellow Jackets seemed poised for the upset.

Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, Maryland was not ready to give in.

Alyssa Thomas rallied her team to stage an incredible run, and Maryland came all the way back before beating the Yellow Jackets in the waning moments, 77-74.

“A game like tonight shows you just what makes this team so special,” said Maryland Head Coach Brenda Frese. “To have the heart and the determination and the grit to be able to, in the second half, come out like they did, go down by 20, and then be able to put a game like that together … Just a heck of a game.”

The first half started as a back-and-forth affair, as each team took brief leads. It was also a very physical battle, and the first three minutes alone saw a combined six fouls. Neither team saw itself up by more than four until Alyssa Thomas scored off a fast-break to put the Terrapins up 20-14 with 10:56 left in the half.

The Yellow Jackets quickly stormed back, taking the lead on a three-pointer by Metra Walthour, but Brene Moseley answered with a three of her own on the other end.

With seven minutes to go, Maryland held a two-point lead after a lay-up by Lynetta Kizer, and it looked like the half would end in a close battle. But Georgia Tech reeled off a 16-0 run over a span of five minutes in which Terps would miss not make a single shot from the field.

Maryland tried to climb back in after a three-point play by Laurin Mincy and a steal and lay-up by Anjale Barrett, but the Yellow Jackets would score at the buzzer to end the half up 45-34. It was easily the largest halftime deficit the Terrapins have faced this season.

Not only was Maryland losing at the half, but also shooting just 36.4% from the floor and uncharacteristically getting out-rebounded by the Yellow Jackets. Change was going to need to be made if the Terps were going to get back in the game.

That change did not immediately come. Sloppy offensive play in the opening minutes of the second half by Maryland led to the Walthour three that put Georgia Tech up 20. It was then that Alyssa Thomas, who at that point had only six points, went to work.

Thomas scored nine straight Maryland points in just two minutes, matched by just a lone free throw by Sasha Goodlett of Georgia Tech. The Terps were now only down 12, but they were not done. Laurin Mincy and Thomas brought them within six, before Lynetta Kizer made a lay-up with 12:28 left to make the deficit 57-53. In less than five minutes, Maryland had gone on an incredible 17-1 run, and both the players and the crowd could sense the tide had turned.

The next several minutes featured the Terrapins battling to tie up the game, but never quite getting there. The Yellow Jackets used strong inside play by center Sasha Goodlett to hold their lead, even going up by as much as eight with just under four and a half minutes to go.

This Maryland team simply would not give up, battling back again and again. Faced with a six-point deficit with 2:30 in the game left, Laurin Mincy scored twice within 30 seconds to cut the Yellow Jackets' lead to one.

Walthour went to the free throw line for a one-and-one with 25 seconds left, but she missed the first shot and Alyssa Thomas grabbed the rebound. Thomas took it the length of the court, spun in the paint, and sank a jumper while getting fouled with 17 seconds left, giving Maryland its first lead of the second half. She made the free throw, putting the Terps up by two.

Georgia Tech tried to tie the game on the ensuing possession, but Anjale Barrett stole the ball from Walthour as she tried to shoot. Mincy was fouled with 1.7 seconds left and made one of two to reach the final score of 77-74.

The game was a great show of resiliency from a Maryland team that has not been accustomed to losing by double digits this season.

“I think it's a learning experience that when we are down, we just got to keep fighting,” said Laurin Mincy. “The reason why this team is special is because even when we were down we stuck together and kept fighting and we came out with a win at the end.”

Alyssa Thomas finished her night with a game-high 24 points - 18 of which were in the second half - to go along with 11 rebounds for a double-double. Alicia DeVaughn also had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Laurin Mincy scored 17, and Lynetta Kizer added 10. Goodlett, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, led Georgia Tech.

Maryland out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets in the second half, and ended up winning the rebounding battle for the game, 43-to-38, which proved to be a difference maker.

“[At halftime] we talked about keeping them off the glass. [Georgia Tech] just did a tremendous job in the first half and we had no answer for it,” said Frese. “I thought that was the difference in the second half, in terms of limiting them to one shot when we could."

Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph had other ideas about what changed the game.

"The difference was Alyssa Thomas. She came out in the second half and basically dominated the game on the offensive end, and we didn't have an answer for her,” said Joseph.

Joseph also thought the crowd atmosphere played a role in Maryland's comeback.

“Maryland has a great crowd,” she continued. “Their crowd did a great job getting behind them down the stretch and we felt like that was a sixth man for them on the defensive end."

The night was also Leukemia Awareness Night at Comcast Center, and Frese - whose three-year-old son Tyler has the disease - feels that made the comeback win even more special.

“You talk about all the people out there fighting to beat cancer and then you talk about the display this team showed - to fight through a 40-minute game with adversity. But a special night for us, to want to continue to bring as much awareness as possible,” said Frese.

Maryland will next bring their 15-0 record on the road to face No. 23 North Carolina on Sunday.


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