Most of the Maryland women’s basketball team ran toward guard Destiny Slocum before she had time to process what had just happened Sunday.
Guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, meanwhile, stood on the other side of the court. She stared at Slocum with her jaw dropped, wearing a look of bewilderment similar to the freshman’s stunned expression.
Slocum, with her feet planted 65 feet away from the basket, capped a dominant second quarter with a two-hand, overhead buzzer-beater that looked more like an outlet pass when it left her grip and — judging by the look on her face — may have been intended as one.
The heave gave Maryland a 38-24 advantage at intermission, and the No. 3-seed Terps stretched their lead in the second half, beating the No. 6-seed Mountaineers, 83-56, to advance to their fifth Sweet 16 in six years.
“Watching that thing was crazy. I was in shock,” Slocum said after the game. “I am still.”
The Mountaineers, though, were the ones that startled the Terps early in the game, making it clear Maryland was facing a more talented team than it had in Friday’s first-round game, when a 103-61 win over Bucknell.
“West Virginia came out and just punched early and were really physical,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I felt us [being] a little bit uncertain.”
The Mountaineers looked like the stronger team in the first quarter and led, 16-12, at the end of the period. The Terps settled for jump shots and didn’t have a point in the paint more than seven minutes after tip-off.
Frese didn’t believe the Mountaineers and their thin bench could keep up that level of intensity throughout the game, however. She was right.
Maryland owned the second period, and the Mountaineers never regained their first-quarter form.
The Terps scored the first 11 points of the second frame, part of a 23-4 run.
“At first, we didn’t match [their physicality],” center Brionna Jones said. “After we settled down and figured out what we’re doing, we picked it up.”
The Mountaineers scored a pair of buckets late in the first half, and, knowing Slocum’s penchant for deep buzzer beaters, guarded her closely in the backcourt.
It didn’t matter. Slocum, who finished with 21 points, hit the most impressive of her three triples in the game.
“Ay, that’s her range,” Walker-Kimbrough said, only half-joking.
West Virginia went on an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter with the help of consecutive 3-pointers and cut the Terps’ lead to 14 points twice in the period.
Maryland, however, wasn’t bothered by West Virginia’s defense like it had been in the first 10 minutes.
Each time the Mountaineers came within 14 points, Jones answered with layups. A late flurry gave Maryland a 21-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
“It’s a 40-minute game,” Frese said. “We’re going to wear them out by who we are and what we do.”
Jones scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds in the third period after posting four first-quarter points on rare offensive touches. She finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
West Virginia guard Tynice Martin, a volume shooter who powered the Mountaineers past highly-ranked teams en route to the Big 12 tournament title two weekends ago, had six points on 3-for-7 shooting in the first quarter.
She missed her next 10 shots and didn’t score again until the fourth quarter, finishing with 10 points to match her third-lowest total of the season.
“I can’t talk enough what [Walker-Kimbrough] and the rest of the team did with her defensively,” Frese said. “[It] took a terrific team effort.”
Maryland earned a trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut, for next weekend’s Sweet 16 to face the winner of No. 2-seed Duke and No. 10-seed Oregon on Saturday.
“We wanted to make it out of College Park,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “The energy our team had on the bench coming in, our defense, running up and down the floor, transition, we played a really good game.
“This was a great team win.”