Six of the opening 10 made field goals in the Maryland and Minnesota women’s basketball teams’ game Sunday were 3-pointers, split evenly between the squads. Those long-range shots continued throughout, as the teams combined to attempt 42 shots from behind the arc.
By the end of the contest, though, the long-range makes skewed toward the hosts. The Golden Gophers upended the No. 13 Terps, 93-74, by out-gunning them in their own miniature 3-point contest.
“The basket was as big as an ocean,” coach Brenda Frese said. “They were making a lot of plays and were really confident.”
After the opening barrage, No. 13 Maryland fell off pace, while Minnesota only upped the ante.
The Terps (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) finished 5-for-18 from the 3-point line. They failed to make any treys following guard Kristen Confroy’s triple with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Confroy made four of the team’s five, while guard Eleanna Christinaki’s triple, which opened the game’s scoring, was the only other.
The Golden Gophers (21-6, 10-4 Big Ten), who hovered over 60 percent from long range for much of the contest, finished 14-for-24, despite missing their three final 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Three different Golden Gophers made three or more triples, with three guards — Destiny Pitts, Gadiva Hubbard and Carlie Wagner — pouring in six, four and three, respectively.
Guard Kaila Charles said it was deflating that the Golden Gophers responded to many of the Terps’ scores with a 3-pointer.
“We knew they were going to hit the three,” Charles said, “but they had a spectacular shooting night.”
More than a month has passed since sophomore guard Blair Watson was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL. While the Terps managed to reel off seven straight wins during her injury layoff, they missed elements of her game Sunday.
Watson was emerging as one of the best 3-point shooters in the Big Ten, shooting 44.1 percent from long range and averaging 13.8 points per game through 17 contests.
“[We missed] Blair’s ability to also help in the zone and knock down some threes for us, rebound and defend,” Frese said. “But it’s no excuse. With our team, we’ve been successful as we’ve moved forward without Blair through her injury, and we have to continue to do that.”
The Golden Gophers shut Maryland down, limiting the Terps, who average about 40 percent from beyond the arc, to 27.8 percent. The Golden Gophers eclipsed Maryland’s defensive output — opponents average about 33 percent from three-point range — by more than 25 percent.
Maryland is accustomed to playing without Watson by this point, but forwards Stephanie Jones and Brianna Fraser fell into early foul trouble. Forward Aja Ellison, Maryland’s only other post presence, missed the game while on bereavement.
With Jones and Fraser unable to play more than 19 and 9 minutes, respectively, the Terps played small and defended the Golden Gophers’ penetration in the paint.
Maryland’s game plan centered on running the Golden Gophers off the 3-point line, Frese said, but the hosts got the ball down low and passed to the perimeter for open looks.
“We kind of over-helped, which is kind of who we are,” Frese said. “We want to help each other out, and that’s who we’ve been all season. They had a great scout against it and made us pay for it.”