By: Cody Wilcox
Maryland women’s basketball guard Kaila Charles drove to the right side of the basket, drew the contact from Lindsey Corsaro and delivered a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump with her right hand as the Maryland faithful exploded out of their seats.
Charles had just scored her sixth point less than 50 seconds into the third quarter. She would finish with 15 of the Terps’ 31 points in the third quarter as the Terps shifted a four-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
But Charles’ 15-point third quarter was not enough as the No. 6-seeded UCLA Bruins grabbed 27 offensive rebounds for 27 second chance points in their second round 85-80 win over the No. 3-seeded Maryland Terrapins on Monday night at the Xfinity Center to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
“I think on the rebounding side, we wanted it more,” said UCLA forward Kennedy Burke. “And that was one of the keys to the game, and we executed it well.”
Thanks to the efforts of Burke, Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean, who combined for 71 of the Bruins’ 85 points, UCLA is headed to their fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen, where they will meet the No. 2-seeded UConn Huskies in Albany, New York.
Onyenwere led all scorers with a career-high 30 points, while also corralling six offensive rebounds.
Entering Monday’s contest against the Terps, UCLA was averaging 16.9 offensive rebounds per game, which led the PAC-12 and ranked third nationally. The Bruins quickly showed that rebounding dominance against Maryland’s zone defense, turning 17 offensive boards into 17 second chance points in the first half.
The Terps were able to get stops with their defense on multiple occasions, but were unable to secure the rebound and end UCLA’s possessions.
“They were just crashing the boards, and we needed to box them out,” Maryland forward Stephanie Jones said. “That’s really what it came down to.”
Jones gave the Terps all she could in the first half with her perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the floor for 15 points in the first half. But the junior saw limited time in the second half as she struggled with foul trouble.
For the second consecutive season, Jones and the Terps were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But led by Charles, who finished with 23 points, Maryland came out of halftime trying to overcome their deficit and keep their season alive. Shakira Austin, after a first half of seven points, three blocks and four rebounds, posted six points, three blocks and three rebounds in the quarter alone.
“Basically, [Maryland head coach Brenda Frese] challenged us to be tough,” Charles said of the message at halftime. “We had that good energy for most of the second half, but we needed to start [the game] with that.”
Also starting in her second tournament game, freshman Taylor Mikesell struggled from the field, going 5-of-13 from the field and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc to finish with 14 points. Her 3-pointer was the lone Maryland perimeter shot that fell on the day, while UCLA finished with 21 points from beyond the arc.
UCLA absorbed the third quarter dominance from the Terps and responded in the final ten minutes to move on.
The Bruins forced the Terps into four turnovers and nine points in the fourth quarter, erasing Maryland’s five-point lead with 19 points of their own. Maryland finished the game missing six of their last seven shots.
The two teams have a history on this date. Forty-one years ago, UCLA and Maryland met in the AIAW National Championship game, which was the first Women’s National Championship game to be televised. Maryland fell to the Bruins 90-74 in that matchup to give UCLA their only National Championship.
And once again, March 25 belonged the UCLA Bruins, capitalizing on the extra possessions they earned off the glass.
“Obviously rebounding has been one of our strengths since the beginning of the season,” Onyenwere said. “This is a great team that we went against, so those extra possessions are really, really special.”