HARTFORD, Conn. — Late in the third quarter of Maryland women’s basketball’s game at No. 1 Connecticut, forward Brianna Fraser put her hands on her head and looked toward the ceiling in frustration.
Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield had just made an acrobatic layup while being fouled. Fraser’s anger built over about 27 minutes of seeing shots like those fall for Connecticut.
Even without injured guard Katie Lou Samuelson — one of the nation’s top offensive players — Connecticut put on a scoring clinic. Behind its unrelenting offensive attack and strong defense at the other end, the nation’s best team beat the No. 15 Terps, 97-72, on Sunday.
“We knew that the waves were going to be coming,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Their experience really showed, especially in that first quarter.”
The Huskies (3-0) opened the game on a 7-0 run, giving a preview of what was to come. The Terps (2-2) responded by tying the score at seven less than three minutes into the contest, but that was as close as Maryland would get.
Connecticut embarked on a 22-4 stretch, capped off by one of guard Kia Nurse’s four first-half 3-pointers. She finished with a team-best 21 points in Samuelson’s absence.
The Terps turned the ball over 15 times and went 9-for-30 from the field in the first half.
Connecticut’s overpowering physicality forced many of those giveaways. Frese waved her arms on the sidelines in disbelief on multiple occasions, mystified as to how the Terps weren’t getting foul calls.
“Early in the game, we realized they were going to be really physical,” guard Kaila Charles said. “We had to take care of the ball, make better passes to limit our turnovers. It’s just being aware of the competition, taking care of the ball and just playing our game.”
After forward Gabby Williams made a layup to stretch Connecticut’s lead to 36-15 early in the second quarter, the Terps never came within 20 points of the hosts again.
Maryland’s misfortune was typified early in the third quarter, when Connecticut forward Azura Stevens — who started in Samuelson’s place — missed an open layup. Instead of grabbing the rebound and turning in transition, the Terps allowed the 6-foot-6 Stevens to collect her missed shot, make a layup through contact and complete the and-one.
Maryland allowed 26 second-chance points, finishing with 22 fewer rebounds than the Huskies. Charles was a rare bright spot for Maryland, notching a team-high 29 points and 12 rebounds.
The program has now lost two of its first four games for the first time under Frese. However, those defeats came against the 2016 and 2017 national champions, Connecticut and South Carolina, respectively.
Knowing that difficult part of the schedule is behind the Terps, Frese tried to be positive after the blowout.
“The big thing is just seeing that we never quit and we fought until the end,” Frese said. “As we build our team through this non-conference slate, game by game, being able to take those positives is a good thing.”