By Aidan Currie
Trailing 47-41 with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter, Maryland guard Bri McDaniel turned the ball over under the basket, and then looked to win possession back for the Terps before George Mason could get out in transition. In doing so though, McDaniel went down hard with what appeared to be a lower body injury, eventually needing to be helped off of the court.
McDaniel wouldn’t return for the rest of the game, leaving the Terps in a precarious position as they looked to mount a comeback against the undefeated George Mason Patriots. But just when the situation seemed to be at its bleakest, Shyanne Sellers got hot, Faith Masonius took over, and the Terps completely flipped the script.
“I wouldn’t say [I have] the mindset of taking over, just more of taking what the defense is giving me,” said Masonius. “With Emily [Fisher] just getting all of these offensive rebounds it just gives [me] the opportunity to get wide open lay-ups.”
Maryland went on to outscore George Mason 18-7 in a critical six-minute period to close the third quarter, a string of play that was capped off by a buzzer-beating layup from Shyanne Sellers. The junior guard took the ball across half-court before driving to the paint and side stepping a defender, creating just enough space for a left handed layup that left her fingertips with just a fraction of a second left on the clock.
The Terps would carry this momentum into the final quarter, where they managed to cap off a hard-fought, 86-77 victory over the Patriots.
“We knew George Mason [was] going to come in really confident and ready to play,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. “I was disappointed with our first half, I thought we came out flat … [but] I loved how we responded coming out of the locker room in the second half. That’s who we are.”
Coming into Sunday’s game it appeared that the Terps had found a winning formula on defense, one that was centered around creating turnovers, and converting those turnovers into easy transition baskets.
As soon as the game tipped off it looked as if Maryland was going to continue doing the same, as they created three turnovers in the opening three minutes. But unlike the Terps’ previous two games, shots weren’t falling, the turnovers stopped coming, and they began committing turnovers of their own.
“[The] seven turnovers in that first quarter were kind of hard to stomach,” said Frese. “But not always … is every game going to be pretty and flawless.”
In addition to the turnovers, George Mason found a lot of success from behind the arc in the first half, going 6-13 from three. Four of these six three’s came from Patriot guard Taylor Jameson, who had 14 points to lead all scorers at the half.
“We were able to defend, we were able to get rebounds, we were able to push the tempo, and find shooters spotting up,” said George Mason head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis.
Maryland on the other hand, struggled from three in the opening 20 minutes, only hitting two shots from behind the arc on a sporadic six attempts, much of which was down to limited minutes for Brinae Alexander.
After hitting seven three’s in Wednesday’s game vs. Niagara, Alexander found herself in early foul trouble on Sunday, finishing with just one made-three in the first half.
“The past few games Brinae has really been like our spark on defense which leads to our offense,” said Masonius. “But obviously Brinae’s a shooter, so … [we] had to change our mindset of offense. We had to drive [and] attack.”
Coming out of half the Terps made the adjustment and did a much better job of defending the perimeter, holding the Patriots to just 2-8 from three.
“They made us play a half-court game [in the second half],” said Blair-Lewis in regards to Maryland’s second half defense. “They switched on everything so it negated a lot of our outside shooting ability, which forced us to go inside to their bigs.”
The second half also saw Maryland use their size advantage to get a number of stops down low, and once the defense started producing stops, the offense began producing points.
“At halftime we were talking about [how we were] taking quick shots in the first half, and it was important for us to go back to our game of attacking downhill,” said Shyanne Sellers. She added, “I’m starting to be able to decipher when to be aggressive, and then when to start kicking the ball out, so I feel like that’s beneficial for us.”
Sellers would finish with a double-double, tallying a career high 28 points while also racking up 13 rebounds.
Along with Sellers and Masonius, freshman Emily Fisher also played a key role for the Terps in the 2nd-half, particularly once Bri McDaniel left the game.
“I’ve been told that I … need to look to be more offensive,” said Fisher. “But my goal right now is to … pass when it’s open, move on offense, and just do whatever [needs to be done] for the team.”
Fisher would also help the cap off an impressive fourth quarter by firing a pass to Brinae Alexander, who pulled up from the top of the key and sinked a jumper to give Maryland a game-icing double digit lead with under a minute to play.
After handing George Mason (7-1) their first loss of the season, Maryland (6-3) will have a full week to prepare for their BIG 10 opener, as they take on Northwestern (3-5) at the XFINITY