With 30 seconds to go in the fourth and Texas up two, Diamond Miller tried to attack the basket but couldn’t get the layup to go. Texas secured the defensive rebound and Maryland fouled. The Longhorns only knocked down one of two from the line.
The Terps came back the other way and Katie Benzan launched a three-pointer but it hit off the back iron and Texas secured another rebound. That’s the kind of night it was for Maryland.
A combination of poor shooting and incredible Longhorn defense led No. 6 Texas to pull off the shocking 64-61 upset over No. 2 Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen, ending Maryland’s historic campaign.
“We’re disappointed, sad,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “This team’s just been a joy to coach all season. The way they came together, the unselfishness they played with all season, I think this one hurts even more.”
The Terps have become accustomed to points coming quickly and frequently, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday night as Maryland put up a season low in points. Shots didn’t fall for the Terps as the second ranked team in three-point percentage in the nation shot just 23% from beyond the arc against Texas.
Maryland got off to a fast start, taking an early 9-0 lead that forced Texas to call a timeout with 7 minutes to go in the first period. Texas, however, refused to back down, pressuring Maryland into turnovers that allowed the Longhorns to go on a 10-0 run of their own to cut the Terps first quarter lead to one.
With Maryland in desperate need of a basket, Faith Masonius came off the bench and grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback layup. Then, Katie Benzan hit a deep triple on the feed from Angel Reese to extend the Terps lead to six after the first quarter.
The second quarter didn’t produce too many points for either side. Maryland’s suffocating perimeter defense, where they switched on screens and dribble-handoffs made it difficult for Texas guards to penetrate and create opportunities. On the other side, Texas applied some full court pressure, which limited the Terps potent offense. At the half, Maryland led 32-25.
“I think you saw some inexperience today with our team,” Frese said. “I mean the credit goes to Texas. They were physical. They were aggressive. They turned it into a game of defense and rebounding.”
Texas’ stout defense led them to the Sweet Sixteen, which came from an upset victory over No. 3 UCLA in the round of 32. That defense that holds opponents to 62.7 points per game and 19 turnovers per game troubled even the best scoring offense in the country. Maryland’s 32 points at the half were the second lowest in a half all season for the Terps.
Maryland has used its defensive pressure to create points on offense all season. However, the Terps didn’t have much success forcing Texas to turn the ball over, as the Longhorns slowed the game down and got into their halfcourt offense.
Texas came out on fire in the third quarter, hitting seven of its first nine shots in the period. Maryland on the other hand, hit just 3 of its first nine attempts from the field. With about four minutes to go in the third, Texas took its first lead of the game, 42-41, at the free throw line.
Texas controlled both sides of the floor for all ten minutes in the third, going on an 11-2 run to take a three point lead late in the quarter. With Ashley Owusu on the bench in foul trouble, her fellow sophomore backcourt partner stepped up, scoring nine in the frame to keep her team in it. Maryland was outscored 24-15 in the quarter and trailed by two entering the fourth.
The fourth quarter turned into a classic March battle, with each team fighting for every basket and defensive stop it could get. However, the Longhorns threw one too many punches for the Terps to counter.
Maryland struggled on the glass in the second half, getting outrebounded 21-16 in the latter 20 minutes. In the end, it wasn’t Maryland’s night as its stay in San Antonio was cut short earlier than expected.
“I thought, ultimately, they made one or two more plays in the fourth quarter that were the difference,” Frese said.
Despite the poor performance on Sunday and the early exit, Maryland’s 2020-21 campaign was historic in unprecedented circumstances. Not a single starter from the previous year’s team returned to Maryland.
With a completely new roster, one that’s first interactions were over zoom, the Terps went 26-3 and captured a Big Ten regular season and tournament title. Frese’s group led the country in scoring with the highest scoring average in program history.
Only one team leaves the tournament without tears in their eyes and a trophy to hoist. While many believed this year’s rendition could be that team, the madness of March struck.
It certainly wasn’t the ending anyone in the program had wanted or expected, but the Terps have plenty of reasons to keep their heads high, including putting on a show for Maryland fans every night with their high-powered offense.
“Just how proud I was of them,” Frese said when asked about her message to the team following the loss. “I thought they brought a lot of great joy to our fans, to our program.”