Near halftime, guard Diamond Miller sent Florida Gulf Coast guard Tishara Morehouse’s well out of bounds.
On the ensuing possession, guard Ashley Owusu scored a layup to give Maryland a 44-39 lead. Owusu’s basket was part of a Terps 11-0 run to close out the first half.
That 11-0 run and eight more unanswered points to start the third quarter helped No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball roll past No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast, 89-65, to earn a trip to Spokane, Washington for the Sweet 16.
“I thought we really brought our defense really that second half when you talk about limiting them from the three point line,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Just played Maryland basketball, I thought we continued to share the ball and play at a really high level which is what you got to do in March.”
Owusu started the game off with a three-pointer in front of the FGCU bench, but Eagles guard Kendall Spray answered right back with a three pointer of her own. It became a theme as the contest moved forward. The two high paced offenses dealt blows at each other, but Maryland stood as the more consistent bunch.
The Terps raced out to a 12-5 lead after Miller hit a three-pointer near the top of the key and forward Angel Reese complemented the effort with a quick six points.
The Eagles started 2-9 from the field before hitting three pointers on back-to-back possessions to cut Maryland’s lead to one at 12-11 midway through the first quarter.
The game was back and forth from there as the lead flipped back and forth.
At the end of the first quarter, Benzan ripped the ball out of Morehouse’s hands for a turnover. Then, Benzan raced up the court and hit a three pointer to energize the crowd.
The Terps and Eagles went toe-to-toe for much of the second quarter as well.
Eagles guard Kendall Spray was on fire from beyond the arc hitting three three-pointers, keeping her team in the game.
The Terps received a three point shooting burst from Miller who was also on humming from beyond the arc in the first half. Miller was 3-5 from three-point range.
“I did not help my team whatsoever [in the Indiana game] and that feeling is not a good feeling,” Miller said. “Those two weeks of practice I was really focused and I just knew my teammates needed me so I just did what I had to do.”
But even with the extra services of Miller, other girls were moving at a rapid pace, seeking big shots.
At halftime, the two sides combined for 29 three point attempts converting 13 of them.
The Terps continued piling on points adding eight more points to go on 19-0 run in a seven minute period spanning both halves to build a, 55-39, lead.
Eventually, the Terps improved their perimeter defense, holding the nation’s best three-point shooting team to only four triples in the second half. The Terps held the Eagles to a 30% shooting percentage in the second half as they failed to mount a comeback.
Miller, Owusu and Reese all scored 20 or more points, as they combined for 65 points — Florida Gulf Coast’s total.
“When you have three All-American type players like that who are so talented and give you an inside outside presence that’s a dangerous team,” Frese said.
The Terps will take No. 1 Stanford who defeated No. 8 Kansas, 91-65, on March 25.
“I think we have each other’s back at the right time at the right moment,” Reese said. “As long as we stick together within our circle we can go as far as we want to go.”