By Aidan Currie
As the game clock read 3.1 seconds in the overtime period of Wednesday night’s wild Big 10 matchup between Maryland and Michigan, Wolverine guard Laila Phelia received the inbounds pass along the sideline before dribbling into the paint where she met Maryland’s Faith Masonius, who was called for a blocking foul as Phelia attempted to go up for a last second layup.
With two pressure free-throws awaiting, Phelia stepped up to the line and calmly knocked down both attempts to give her Wolverines a two point advantage with just 0.3 seconds remaining.
It appeared that defeat was all but certain for the Terps, however, Maryland were set up with an inbounds pass across halfcourt after using their final timeout. Jakia Brown-Turner jumped to grab the pass, and attempted to catch and shoot in one motion. Brown-Turner got the shot off in time, but after rattling around the rim it ultimately rolled off the side, sealing a frustrating 79-77 overtime loss for the Terps.
“I think we executed the [final] play perfectly,” said Brown-Turner. “The rim just didn’t want to give us that one.”
Despite facing the best scoring defense in the Big 10, the Terps got out to a flying start on offense behind efficient long-range shooting. Maryland hit two triples–plus a three that was later reviewed and changed to a two–as part of a 10-2 run to open the first quarter.
“I think we were just playing together as one,” said Brown-Turner in regards to Maryland’s stellar first quarter. “When we play together we’re a great team, and I think if we keep doing that, we’ll be good.”
Eventually, the shots began falling for Michigan, allowing the Maize and Blue to close the gap to just three points by the early minutes of the second quarter.
Just when it appeared that the Wolverines were getting back into the game, both Shyanne Sellers and Brinae Alexander found their scoring touches. The duo put up eight and six points respectively, both on perfect shooting in the second quarter.
Unfortunately for Maryland though, both would later foul out–Alexander in the fourth quarter and Sellers at the start of overtime–leaving the Terps without two of their primary scoring options for the majority of overtime.
“We’re going to continue to have to take tough lessons when we … lose the battle with something we can control, and we can control [our] poise,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. “The composure piece [is] … an area that our team has got to be able to grow up with.”
As the opening 20 minutes were coming to a close, Brown-Turner put the finishing touches on a marvelous first half for the Terps. With the game clock down to one second, Brown-Turner gathered a pass on the wing from Sellers, and had just enough time to collect herself before launching a high arching three that splashed through the net as the buzzer sounded.
The triple provided Maryland with a commanding 46-31 lead at the break, but like clock-work, Maryland’s third quarter woes showed up once again.
“We really wanted to come out [of the half] like we were down [by] 10, but it didn’t show,” said Frese. “We wanted to … continue to make a statement on the glass and with our defense, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
Even after a shaky start to the third quarter the Terps still managed to keep a decent lead. Once Michigan’s Laila Phelia–the Wolverines’ leading scorer on the season–went down with an injury however, the game ironically flipped in favor of the Wolverines.
Following Phelia’s injury, Michigan outscored the Terps 14-9 in the final six and a half minutes of the third quarter, bringing the Terps lead under 10 points, heading into the fourth
This run of play also featured a skirmish between Maryland’s Bri McDaniel and Michigan’s Lauren Hansen. The two got tangled up while fighting for possession of a loose ball, and after the officials blew for a tie-up, McDaniel and Hansen’s fight for the ball became a fight between each other.
After a review, both McDaniel and Hansen were disqualified. Phelia also returned for the Wolverines following the review.
“I thought [the ejection] was going to motivate us, … but it didn’t really rally us in any way,” said Frese. “I thought Michigan was just a lot more inspired [after the ejections].”
The Wolverines were able to carry their 3rd quarter momentum into the fourth, but following a Maryland timeout the Terps managed to steady the ship, establishing what looked to be a safe 67-58 lead with three minutes left in regulation.
However, with their backs against the wall, Michigan put together a desperate 9-0 run to close out the fourth quarter and send the game to overtime. The Wolverines’ run featured two controversial offensive fouls–and two subsequent turnovers–against the Terps, which contributed to the fact that Maryland only attempted nine shots in the fourth quarter.
“Honestly, it didn’t seem like the refs were on our side, but we can’t really put the game on the refs,” said Briggs. “We always have to be 10 points better [than the other team], and I think it’s … a cop-out if we just blame it on the refs.”
As the extra five minutes ensued Michigan’s Cameron Williams came alive, hitting all three of her two-point attempts to help the Wolverines establish a small lead in overtime.
Despite the absence of McDaniel, Alexander, and Sellers for virtually the entire overtime period, Maryland got two key buckets from Brown-Turner, as well as a crucial three from Briggs, to keep the Terps in the game. Infact, Maryland had an opportunity to win the game in overtime.
With six seconds left, the Terps set up an inbounds play to try to get an open layup for Allie Kubek under the basket, but Faith Masonius’ lobbed inbounds pass went directly out of bounds without being touched by either side, resulting in a turnover that led to Laila Phelia’s game winning free throws for Michigan.
“[The ball] wasn’t just going to Allie,” said Frese in clarification of the inbounds play. “Plan B was to go to Jakia, but I think [based on] the way [the defender] had it sealed, Faith thought she was going to get that pass into her.”
Wednesday night’s crushing loss adds to Maryland’s struggles away from the Xfinity Center this season, as the Terps now sit at 1-5 in true road games and are still yet to record back-to-back wins in conference play.
The Terps will be looking to turn their fortunes around quickly, as they cap off the two game road trip by traveling to State College to face Penn State (13-5, 4-3) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., before returning to the Xfinity Center for next week’s crucial homestand against #14 Indiana and #5 Iowa.
“I’m just looking forward to the next game,” said Briggs. “We … let that [game] slip through our fingers. Right now … we’re right on the breaking point and we’re just trying to stay together as a team so we can get over that hump.”