CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Maryland women’s basketball team appeared to be cruising toward its fourth straight victory with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter Wednesday, leading Virginia by 12.
The Cavaliers, however, embarked on a 6-0 run to end the frame, then scored the opening five points of the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead.
But behind guard Kaila Charles’ three points in the final minute, the Terps staved off the Cavaliers, 60-59, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“It was a tough game overall tonight in terms of how we like to play,” coach Brenda Frese said. “These type of games, on the road, to be able to come out in a hostile environment will just help make us better for the future.”
Charles and forward Stephanie Jones led Maryland (6-2) with 13 points apiece.
After the teams traded runs early on, the Terps established breathing room by connecting from behind the arc. Maryland made four of five long range attempts in the second quarter. The Cavaliers (3-5), however, responded by outscoring the Terps, 19-17, to claw to within two points heading into the final 10 minutes.
Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said they set out to disrupt the Maryland’s offense while wearing down the defense, often waiting until 20-25 seconds had drained from the shot clock.
For the most part, it worked.
With the first basket of the fourth quarter, the hosts equalized the Terps at 51. Shortly thereafter, they took the lead on guard Aliyah Huland El’s three-pointer. The Terps went without a basket for more than five minutes before guard Kristen Confroy hit a three to tie the contest.
Frese said the Terps didn’t hang their head after the Cavaliers took the lead and kept their poise and composure, enabling them to hold the hosts off.
Trailing, 58-57, with 40 seconds remaining, Charles drove to the hoop with her right hand, switched to her weaker left and spun in a layup to give the Terps a one-point advantage.
Confroy and Charles’ contributions down the stretch in the game were a deciding factor in the outcome, and validated Frese’s preseason claims that the pair — as the team’s only returning starters — would be key leaders.
“Big plays from your veterans,” Frese said. “That’s where you talk about the experience paying off with both Kaila and Kristen.”
Jones said learning from the bench in close games last season, in addition to Maryland’s 94-86 loss to then-No. 4 South Carolina on Nov. 13, prepared her for a close finish.
With a chance to tie the contest from the free throw line with 14 seconds left, Virginia guard Lauren Moses missed one. The Terps, however turned the ball over on the inbounds play, giving the Cavaliers a final chance to pull off the upset.
However, Virginia missed three shots before the buzzer went off.
Despite allowing the Cavaliers back into the game, Frese saw the contest as a learning experience. She also believes the Terps will play better than they did Wednesday.
“When you’re struggling in a game like tonight, you have to figure it out,” Frese said. “Fortunately, we made one more play than Virginia tonight.”