By: Christopher Gharagozlo
Following a loss on the road to No. 14 Iowa, Maryland women’s basketball bounced back with an improbable come-from-behind win against Minnesota at the Xfinity Center as guard Kaila Charles, who finished with 29 points, hit the game winning layup to avoid back-to-back losses.
Charles’ layup as time expired capped off a 9-0 run in the final 50 seconds of the game that turned a seven-point deficit into a 71-69 win to keep the Terps atop the Big Ten standings.
Coach Brenda Frese credited this comeback effort to her team “being more aggressive and more locked in.”
In the final stages of the game, after Charles cut the lead to five with 50 seconds, Minnesota committed an offensive foul and Stephanie Jones capitalized with a huge and-one score to suddenly make it a one-possession game.
On the ensuing possession, Minnesota tried to inbound again and threw a sloppy pass. The pass was intercepted and fought for, resulting in a jump ball with the possession arrow favoring Maryland.
With six seconds remaining, Charles scored two more of her 23 second-half points to level the score, and set up the dramatic ending. With six seconds remaining, Minnesota inbounded the ball looking for a potential go-ahead score to upset the Terps on their home floor.
Forward Shakira Austin, the team’s lengthiest player at 6-foot-5, stood in the way of that opportunity, deflecting the attempted pass. Charles gathered the loose ball and sprinted down court to complete the comeback win.
“I just drove to the hoop and hoped to draw a foul,” Charles said.
Well before Charles’ heroics, the Terps came out slow to start the game. Conversely, the Golden Gophers came out firing, and they capitalized on the Terps’ turnovers opening up a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter. Turnovers plagued the Terps as they had 5 turnovers in the opening 10 minutes.
“I thought we came out flat, I thought we came out very flat.” Frese said.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, senior forward Brianna Fraser went down holding her left ankle. She fell down awkwardly on her ankle after jumping for a defensive rebound.
The Terps seemed to rally around the fact that their senior leader had gone down with an injury. The Terps started to make run, but the Golden Gophers held them off as the first quarter concluded with the score of 20-15.
The second quarter started to look like Maryland was going to get themselves back in the game. However, Minnesota had other plans. Everytime the Terps would make a little run, the Golden Gophers responded with a run of their own.
Blair Watson, Maryland’s best defender, got into foul trouble early, and Fraser was out with her injury. The Terps struggled to adapt to their absences, and it led to holes on defense and fouls. With those lapses, Maryland could not gain momentum, and Minnesota made them pay for their mistakes. Destiny Pitts and Kenisha Bell lead the way for the Golden Gophers as the backcourt tandem combined for 47 points on the night.
Maryland looked to be heading into the second half with a double-digit deficit. However, guard Taylor Mikesell hit a huge buzzer beater 3-point shot to end the first half. Still, the Golden Gophers led 45-36 at the break.
Mikesell’s buzzer-beater did not bring much needed momentum for the Terps. Instead, Minnesota picked up right where they left off. The Golden Gophers continued to force turnovers, push the pace and draw fouls.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Terps came out with a new sense of urgency. Charles continued her dominant display and began to receive reinforcements as Mikesell came down and hits two huge 3-pointers to trim Minnesota’s’ lead down to five with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Despite trailing the entire game, Maryland refused to go away into the darkness. They showed heart and resilience. Down five, the Golden Gophers went to inbound the ball.
Eventually, that heart and resilience paid off with the unlikely win over Minnesota. Now, the Terps will head on the road for the final time this regular season, with a matchup against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, looming on Monday.