Women’s Basketball falls in Big Ten Tournament Semis, awaits selection

With just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley dribbled through a double team around the perimeter, sizing up the Terps’ set defense. Shelley made her move with three seconds – and counting – on the shot clock, accelerating around Maryland’s Faith Masonius before splashing a contested, right-handed running floater.

An eventual 30-point barrage from Shelley proved to be the Terps’ kryptonite, spearheading a shooting clinic that carried over throughout the Cornhusker lineup – as Maryland fell 78-68 to Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

After a strong 15 point, 11 rebound double-double in the Terps’ upset victory over Ohio State on Friday, Faith Masonius continued her offensive dominance early. Masonius carried the offensive load once more in the opening minutes of the first quarter, utilizing crafty jumpers and post moves to score four of Maryland’s first six points.

Then, Nebraska – more specifically, Shelley – took over. The graduate student proceeded to launch and hit deep shot after deep shot from well beyond the arc, hitting three triples in the first quarter alone (3/4 from distance, 75% on three-point field goals in the first 10 minutes). 

“I kind of went unconscious for a little bit,” Shelley said. “I was feeling it.”

The red-hot shooting carried over throughout the Cornhuskers’ lineup, as Callin Hake and Logan Nissley each knocked in a three, improving Nebraska’s first-quarter triple percentage to a ridiculous 55.6%.

“They are a smart team and have a lot of great shooters,” Masonius said. “Having those shooters on a skip pass also makes it difficult to have our defense … to protect and help in the paint.”

But it was none other than Shelley who closed out the first quarter, showcasing her midrange game to lead a 9-0 run that single handedly extended the Cornhuskers’ lead to as much as 13.

The nightmarish first half continued, as both Bri McDaniel and Brinae Alexander picked up their third and second foul, respectively – heading to the bench out of caution. But even with timely foul trouble, the momentum gradually began to shift throughout the latter minutes of the second quarter.

After a scoreless first quarter, Maryland’s Jakia Brown-Turner came out aggressive in the second, knowing her offense was needed – as she’s scored 14+ points in 12 of the last 16 games (with six 20+ point outings within that span).

Just minutes into the period, Brown-Turner held the ball at the top of the perimeter. The senior guard methodically dribbled to her left before making her move – bursting into a spin move and sinking a crafty finger roll layup off the glass.

Both Masonius and Shyanne Sellers followed Brown-Turner’s lead, hitting tough bucket after bucket off constant drives through the lane – spurring a crucial 8-3 Terps’ scoring run to close out the quarter.

Then, just seconds before the half, Shelley drove towards the right baseline, aiming a floater through traffic that, once more, found the bottom of the net. But in an incredible effort, Emily Fisher anticipated – bracing for contact as Shelley collided with her after the release, resulting in a Cornhuskers’ charge and more importantly, no basket.

Despite Nebraska’s overwhelming first half dominance, the Terps suddenly found themselves down just seven as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Now well within striking distance, Maryland methodically chipped away to begin the second half. Playing through foul trouble, McDaniel lofted in a driving layup to tie it at 51 apiece – capping yet another 11-4 Terps’ scoring run. Then, two timely triples from Brinae Alexander kept it close late in the third quarter – with the Terps finding themselves down just one score.

But another slow start to the fourth quarter followed, as Maryland wouldn’t score a single point – failing to convert on a field goal – for more than three straight minutes. Furthermore, a 33rd minute layup from Allie Kubek served as the Terps’ only basket for nearly seven consecutive minutes.

“We didn’t make a shot when we needed to,” stressed Sellers. “… I feel like if we would have grabbed that lead, we probably would have never looked back.”

The lack of scoring, plus four more free throws from Shelley – now up to 30 points with a video-game like stat line  – extended the Cornhuskers’ lead back up to double digits to effectively seal a Nebraska win as the buzzer sounded.

Maryland falls to 19-13 overall; however, even with the loss, the Terps are a near-lock to make the NCAA Tournament – guaranteeing more postseason games.

Maryland now begins its quest for a national championship, turning its attention to next Sunday’s Selection Show – where they’ll find out potential opponents, dates, and locations for the upcoming nationwide NCAA Tournament.

“We have a locker room full of competitors that have fought and stuck through a lot of adversity this season,” said head coach Brenda Frese. “They’re built for March, and we’re ready to take on the next tournament.”