COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Open shots spun out of the rim. The Terrapins couldn’t get out and run. They couldn’t get to the free throw line. They couldn’t contain a surging seventh seed that notched a huge 74-65 upset at Xfinity Center March 21.
“I don’t think that we got into our game ever,” said senior forward Malina Howard, who had more floor burns than points. “We just weren’t ourselves completely offensively. They were a great team and they played their hearts out.”
The Terrapins (31-4) had their hearts broken, unable to hit shots against Washington’s huge 2-3 zone. No. 2 seed Maryland was 25-of-67 from the field, the Terps’ second worst shooting night of the season.
“I thought the better team won tonight,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, one victory shy of a fifth straight Sweet Sixteen appearance. “It was a tough shooting night for us. It was very uncharacteristic. Washington’s length, their size gave us some problems when you talk about being out-rebounded, our turnovers, only getting to the free throw line five times tonight. Credit them.”
The Huskies (24-10) advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 16 years, and they did it, using just six players and getting 52 of their 74 points from just two players. Maryland used several different defenders on 26-point-per-game scorer Kelsey Plum and made her go 8-for-24 from the field to get her 32 points.
But the 5-8 Plum did a lot of damage at the free throw line, hitting 13 of 14 there, including 9-of-9 in the fourth quarter to hold off the desperate second seed. Talia Walton, a versatile 6-2 inside-outside player, had 20 points and Maryland had no answer for her all night.
“I think at times we let her get going with the ‘and-ones’ and in transition,” said Kristen Confroy of Plum. “She’s a great player so she’s going to get her’s. I thought we did a pretty good job of containing her. A lot of her points came at the free throw line.”
Washington was 20-of-22 at the free throw line to make up for 39 percent shooting (23-of-59) from the field. The Huskies also out-rebounded Maryland, the nation’s top rebounding team, 40-38.
The Terrapins countered with 17 points from Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, 11 in the second half as she tried to rally her team late. Senior Brene Moseley had 16 points and seven assists but like her teammates had an uncharacteristic 6-of-19 shooting night, including one of 6 behind the arc. The Terrapins were 10-of-28 from long range (35.7 percent) as a team and had 15 turnovers, two many against a zone.
“I got aggressive in the second half,” said Walker-Kimbrough, who hit 6-of-14 shots. “I should have been aggressive in the first half but I can’t take that back. I started looking for my own shot and tried to provide a spark for my team offensively.”
The Terrapins were out of sorts much of the evening against a Huskies lineup that went 6-3, 6-2 and 6-3 up front. The heightened Huskies did a particularly good job in taking away one of Maryland’s primary threats. Brionna Jones had just four points and six rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting, bottled up inside that 2-3 zone.
Maryland had just five free throw attempts, the second fewest in a game this season, another indication of how amiss things were. Confroy added 11 points (3-of-8) and her scrappy play over the two NCAA Tournament games was a highlight. Senior Tierney Pfirman had 10 points and seven rebounds and hit 5 of her 10 field goal attempts.
“They came out with a lot of energy and kept their hands up, and we just couldn’t get an offensive flow,” said Pfirman. “Our passing was off. They wanted it more than us. I don’t know. We just couldn’t get clicking out there.
The Huskies surged ahead in the third quarter when Maryland scored just eight points, and then Washington led by as many as 11 (60-49) with 5:48 to play, before the Terrapins mounted another furious rally.
Walker-Kimbrough nailed long back-to-back threes but Walton answered at 1:24 to make it 63-55. Moseley hit a jumper to cut it back to six but the parade to the free throw line had begun. Washington hit 11 of 12 freebies in the last minute.
“It’s hard to take but I know we left it all out on the court,” said Moseley, one of four seniors along with Pfirman, Howard and Chloe Pavlech. They compiled a 119-22 record the last four seasons with three conference championships and two Final Four appearances.
“They’re all winners, on and off the court, through their academics,” said Frese. “Just the way they represented the university in everything they did.”
And at the half, despite being out-played much of the first 20 minutes, it looked like they would add to their list of accomplishments before a raucous home crowd.
The Terrapins got two Confroy free throws to extend the five-point halftime lead to 36-29, but then again went cold, missing open shots (five of their first six) to let Washington take control.
The Huskies ran off 14 of the next 16 points. Washington regained the lead at 6:45 when Mathilde Gilling scored inside from Plum to make it 39-38. Plum got two free throws and then Alexus Atchley scored on a drive after a long rebound caught Maryland’s defense out of position.
When the 6-3 Gilling scored inside over Walker-Kimbrough at 3:49, Washington led 45-38. Pfirman hit a 15-footer to end a Maryland scoring drought of five minutes and 37 seconds.
Jones got a stickback to make it 45-42, but the quarter ended after Plum scored on a baseline drive and then Walton scored inside to make it 49-42.
Moseley opened the fourth quarter with a rare fastbreak basket – Maryland had just seven such points – but Plum answered with a three. Pfirman hit a jumper, Walker-Kimbrough got a three and it was 52-49 with 7:14 to play. The Huskies got a big socre when burly center Chantel Osahor drilled a line-drive 3-pointer to start an 8-0 run to open that 11-point lead.
“It was a game of runs and they made more runs than we did tonight,” said Frese.
The Terrapins led 34-29 at the half thanks to a long-awaited 7-0 spurt to end the first 20 minutes. Maryland trailed by as many as eight points before finding the shooting range in the second quarter.
Confroy got a quick three to start that quarter and then Pfirman hit a turnaround inside Washington’s zone. When Confroy hit from long range again at 7:07, the score was tied at 19-19.
Maryland got into a bit of foul trouble trying to force the tempo and the 4,396 fans on hand voiced their displeasure as Jones was forced to the bench with two fouls.
Washington, behind 21 points from Plum (11) and Walton (10) led 29-27 at 2:24 on two Osahor free throws, but those would be the last points for the Huskies in the half as Maryland’s defense clamped down.
Walker-Kimbrough hit a 3-pointer to give Maryland its first lead since 6:32 of the first period. Pfirman scored inside on a Moseley pass, one of six first half assists for the senior guard, who gave the team a big spark off the bench. Moseley scored herself at 42 seconds to give the Terps the five-point lead.
Maryland shot out to a quick 8-2 lead early when Pavlech and Confroy hit threes, but then went ice cold, missing 12 straight shots and digging a 19-11 hole at the end of the first quarter. The Huskies were just 8-of-15 overall but that was enough to zip by Maryland. The Terrapins were just 4-of-17 against Washington’s 2-3 zone, and missed several open shots before turning things around in the second quarter.
“I thought their length gave us problems, even when we would penetrate, we were hesitant,” said Frese. “I thought we played maybe not to lose instead of to win. It’s a tough lesson when you take a loss like that.”
Washington advances to meet Kentucky in the next round in Lexington, Ky.