By Justin Fitzgerald
Last April, Breanna Stewart scored 25 points against the Terrapins in an 81-58 rout, and head coach Brenda Frese knew they would have to keep her in check if they wanted to take down UConn. They had done just that well into the third quarter, but after a Briana Fraser and-one and free throw gave Maryland a 43-41 lead, Stewart took over.
She assisted on Napheesa Collier’s layup to tie the game, and then blocked Brene Moseley’s layup that led to a Kia Nurse transition three pointer. After Malina Howard badly missed a three on Maryland’s next offensive possession, Stewart caught a Morgan Tuck feed for an easy layup. Stewart then returned the favor by finding Tuck on the Huskies next possession to extend the lead to 50-43 and force Frese to call timeout.
Stewart finished with 23 points, six rebounds, and seven assists, and although Maryland cut it to four late UConn pulled away for an 83-73 win. The Huskies improved to 10-0 with the win, their 47th straight. Maryland dropped to 11-1 with the loss, their first since they lost to UConn in the Final Four to end last season.
The Terps got off to a rocky start in the first quarter, with both Shartori Walker-Kimbrough and Brene Moseley picking up two fouls. With both in foul trouble Briona Jones scored eight of her 24 points in the first quarter, but Maryland still trailed 21-14. Jones’s 24 points tied her career high, which came on 12-14 shooting.
Brenda Frese put Walker-Kimbrough back in at the start of the second quarter, and it immediately made a difference as Maryland went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 21. They continued to go back and forth with the Huskies, eventually taking a 29-27 on a Malina Howard. After UConn tied it up on the next possession, Walker-Kimbrough answered with a three to give Maryland a 32-29 lead. But the end of the second quarter was foreshadowing for what would happen in the third, as UConn scored the last seven points and went into halftime up 36-32.
Starting the third, Maryland fought once again to take a 43-41 lead, but after Stewart took over found themselves down 50-43. The Huskies extended their lead to 56-47 by the end of the third quarter and extended it to 12 early in the fourth.
It looked like UConn was ready to pull away, but once again Maryland clawed their way back into the game and cut it to four when Tierney Pfirman hit a three pointer with 1:11 left. Soniya Chang answered back for the Huskies, and Confroy missed a three on the next possession to seal the win for UConn.
Maryland will open up Big Ten play at Illinois on Thursday, and then will return home Saturday for another top 10 showdown against No.9 Ohio State, which will be nationally televised on CBS.