Facing a nine-point halftime deficit in Saturday’s Sweet 16 game against Oregon, coach Brenda Frese pleaded for the Maryland women’s basketball team to “go down swinging.”
She tried to inject energy into a squad that appeared uncomfortable during the first half against the Ducks, but her speech didn’t result in a comeback in the Terps’ 77-63 loss. Oregon led for the entire second half, never allowing Frese’s team to execute the way it did to win 32 games and the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships.
“We haven’t played like this in a long time,” Frese said. “So [it’s disappointing] for it to rear its ugly head tonight.”
The Terps started slow, struggling through a first quarter in which they shot less than 40 percent, didn’t make a jumper and were outrebounded 11-7. Still, Frese believed her team could “play out of it,” as it had after a slow start against West Virginia in last weekend’s second-round victory.
Instead, Oregon widened the one-point lead it had after the first quarter to nine points by intermission. Maryland’s first jumper didn’t come until there was about a minute left in the opening half, and the team continued to commit uncharacteristic turnovers.
“For whatever reason, I didn’t feel it in our huddles for 40 minutes — the presence that we’ve had all year,” Frese said. “I don’t know if the stage for [our young players] was too much for the first time.”
Freshman point guard Destiny Slocum finished her first NCAA tournament with nine points and three assists, but committed five turnovers.
Slocum, who entered Saturday averaging more than two 3-pointers per game, missed her only attempt from beyond the arc against the Ducks. The Terps went 0-for-6 on three-point attempts after averaging more than six makes entering the contest.
Those struggles contributed to Maryland, the nation’s leading offense heading into the game, scoring a season-low 63 points.
“Defensively and tempo-wise, we played as good a game as we can play,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said.
The Terps felt their defense wasn’t up to par either, as Oregon shot 40 percent from three-point range and had five players score in double figures.
Slocum said that performance compounded the team’s offensive struggles.
“Our defense was our problem today,” Slocum said. “Our defense was a big reason we couldn’t get in any rhythm.”
Maryland’s seniors, guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and center Brionna Jones, have led the squad throughout the year but also had uncharacteristic nights.
Walker-Kimbrough started 1-for-6 and committed five turnovers Saturday. Jones matched Walker-Kimbrough’s team-leading 16 points while adding 15 rebounds but missed multiple open layups.
“Early on, I just wasn’t being as patient as I normally was,” Jones said. “Once we settled in, we worked out of the double-team better.”
Still, Jones’ double-double couldn’t help the Terps avoid a Sweet 16 defeat. Walker-Kimbrough’s six-point burst late in the fourth quarter brought them within six, but the Ducks scored the game’s final eight points to secure their 14-point win.
Oregon was simply the better team Saturday, Maryland said, and it showed both on the court — where the Terps pressed on offense and appeared a step slow on defense — and just about everywhere in the stat sheet.
Maryland prefers to push the tempo, but it scored just eight fast-break points Saturday while committing 21 turnovers. The Ducks also had just one fewer rebound than the Terps, who entered Saturday with a 14.3 average rebound margin.
All these factors led to the team’s second season-ending upset loss in as many years.
“It was just little simple things that we could’ve fixed that we fixed too late,” guard Kaila Charles said.