Maryland thumps No. 1 seed Ohio State to advance to Tournament Semifinals

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Time and time again this season, Maryland has been on the cusp of a signature win. 

When Ohio State came to College Park in mid-January, Maryland trailed by just one heading into the fourth quarter but ran out of gas down the stretch. 

When Iowa rolled into the Xfinity Center just a few weeks later the Terps got even closer, as they trailed by just one point with just over six minutes remaining. Once again though, they came up just short.

With losses like those in mind, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese simply said, “Finish it,” when asked what her team would have to do to oust top-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, on Friday afternoon. Frese’s call was answered.  

On the heels of heroic performances from Shyanne Sellers (25 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), Brinae Alexander (19 points with 5 three-pointers), Jakia Brown-Turner (19 points and 9 rebounds), and Faith Masonius (her first double-double since Nov. 2022), Maryland officially cemented its status as an NCAA Tournament team with an 82-61 beatdown of No. 1-seeded Ohio State.

“Our Iowa game, our Ohio State game have all been super close, we just haven’t gotten over that hump,” said Sellers. “Now [that] we’ve gotten over the hump, I feel like we’re going to keep going and not look back.”

Slow starts have plagued the Terps in their previous two games, but on Friday afternoon they took the floor with a heightened sense of urgency. While Ohio State’s patented full-court press was giving Maryland problems on inbound plays, the Terps managed to get to the basket by pushing the pace in transition and keeping their possessions short.   

“I think it’s hard for them to set up [their defense] when we get stops and keep it pushing,” said Sellers. “Also even when we don’t get a stop, [and] we break the press, it’s always a disadvantage for them because it’s a three-on-two [or] two-on-one situation, and it puts a lot of pressure on their back line.”

The up-tempo style allowed Maryland to establish an early 8-3 lead, but the advantage was short-lived. In just over a minute and a half, the Buckeyes pieced together an 8-0 run that was fueled by multiple Terps turnovers. 

Thanks to Jakia Brown-Turner though, Maryland didn’t go quietly. The grad student opened the second quarter with a three-point play, then drained a triple, and finally found a wide-open Brinae Alexander, who hit a three-pointer of her own. 

“Even though I did miss – I think I missed my first three three’s – it’s just the mentality to keep shooting,” said Alexander. “Once it goes in, the basket just gets bigger and bigger, so once I get that confidence, there’s no coming back from that.”

The nine points created by Brown-Turner were essential to a 14-2 run that allowed the Terps to regain their early advantage. 

On the defensive end, the Terps weren’t stopping all of Ohio State’s elite scorers – Rebeka Mikulasikova and Jacy Sheldon both had eight points in the first half – but they did manage to keep Cotie McMahon and Celeste Taylor at bay. Taylor had just two points and went 0-3 from behind the arc, while McMahon had five points but on 1-9 shooting from the field. 

“We focused on our defense, and it’s really about a defensive mentality,” said Alexander. “For us, it leads to transition points and also just feeds into our offense. … Even if we’re not scoring, we’ve got to defend.”

More important than the scoring or the defense though, was Maryland’s rebounding. Faith Masonius led a dominant Terrapin effort on the glass, as they outrebounded Ohio State 29-15 in the first half. The Terps’ rebounding also allowed them to outscore Ohio State 8-0 in second-chance points during the half, and rather poetically, Maryland led by eight points at the half.

“Faith doesn’t get the credit that she deserves,” said Sellers. “A lot of the reason why our defensive intensity today was so good is because of Faith. She does all the things that [don’t] show up on a stat sheet. You can highlight my name a thousand times, but really Faith is the one that holds this team together and keeps us going.”

It was a scary start to the third quarter for Maryland, as Bri McDaniel and Allie Kubek both hit the deck early on, and each exited temporarily with injuries. Reduced to essentially a five-man rotation, the Terps allowed Ohio State to creep back into the game, but luckily for Maryland McDaniel and Kubek were able to return just a few minutes later. 

What followed was a barrage from the Terps. 

“They punched first. We’ve got to punch back,” said Sellers when asked about her team’s third-quarter response. “I always tell people you can’t teach experience. You can’t teach the pressure situations you’ve been in before. I think our seniors do a good job of leading us.”

With six minutes left in the third, the Terps opened a stretch of play in which they outscored the Buckeyes 21-5 in the span of five minutes. By the end of it, Maryland led by 19.       

Towards the end of that stretch though, Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff was assessed a technical foul for belligerently arguing what he believed to be a no-call that led to a Brinae Alexander triple. 

While McGuff’s tech gifted the Terps two free points from the line, his outburst seemed to give the Buckeyes a spark, as they closed out the quarter on an 8-2 run. It appeared as if the momentum could’ve been swinging in favor of Ohio State, but ultimately, that wasn’t the case. 

Even with their strong end to the third quarter the Buckeyes still trailed by 13 when the fourth quarter began. The pressure to close this double-digit deficit with the clock ticking seemed to plague the Buckeye offense in the fourth quarter, as they shot just above 20% from the field and only scored nine points.

“We’ve had so many games with Ohio State and Indiana and games that have been [close] in the fourth quarter, and they’ve gotten away from us,” said Frese. “I think that the growth of this team is the resiliency … to be able to keep their poise together and be able to weather that storm.”

On the other end, Sellers did her best Kobe Bryant impression and slammed the door. 

With just under four minutes to play Sellers drove to the basket and floated a layup in traffic that she couldn’t get to fall. But rather than giving up on the possession, Sellers tenaciously grabbed her own miss and put up another layup. This time, she got it to go.    

As Sellers turned around to run back on defense, she rolled her shoulders, shook her head, and flexed in the middle of the paint. Her second-chance layup gave the Terps a 20-point lead, icing Maryland’s most impressive and emphatic win of the entire season. 

“I think we’ve always had it in us, even though people didn’t believe in us and still don’t believe in us,” said Sellers. “I’m telling you right now, the Maryland team you see in March is not the same team you see at the beginning [of the year].”

While dribbling out the clock to end the game, Sellers looked over to the scorer’s table and yelled, “Peaking at the right time!” 

Since a brutal four-game losing streak at the end of January, Maryland has done just as Sellers said. The Terps have won seven of their past nine games, and with the win on Friday, they’ll dance into the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to face Nebraska.