Moments into No. 2 Maryland’s opening NCAA Tournament match against No. 15 Holy Cross, Shyanne Sellers planted under the basket and sent a no-look, behind-the-back pass to a trailing Abby Meyers. And while the team didn’t score on the play — Meyers was fouled — it epitomized the Terps’ joy in their first game.
“Shy is really getting comfortable at the point guard spot,” Meyers said. “… She’s such a quick player, so she’ll get to that basket, and so many people collapse on her because she’s so dangerous and then she’s gonna find the open shooter.”
Throughout the match, Maryland players connected on full-court passes, drove past defenders and knocked down wide-open threes. Midway through the third, Sellers even Euro-stepped her way to the rim and floated to an uncontested layup.
In her NCAA Tournament debut, Brinae Alexander made four threes and scored a game-high 18 points.
“I was really excited to … be able to play at home and have that home-court advantage,” Alexander said. “… It’s a great feeling to be out here and be on home floor.”
Maryland made life miserable for the Crusaders; the visitors went 2-for-10 and committed 11 turnovers, scoring just four points in the first quarter. The Terps finished the game with four blocks, 13 steals and forced 24 turnovers.
“We wanted to come out and see how long we could hold them on the defensive end,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought that’s where it starts for us. We were really, really aggressive.”
Frese was able to rest some of her high-volume players. Elisa Pinzan led the Terps with 32 minutes; the team’s four other starters played 22, 23, 22 and 19 minutes.
Three of the team’s freshmen — Bri McDaniel, Gia Cooke and Ava Sciolla — saw the court and combined for 33 total minutes.
But the team can’t dwell too much on the highs experienced Friday afternoon. In two short days, Maryland faces No. 7 Arizona, which won its first-round contest against No. 10 West Virginia.
“They truly understand it, given that it’s the NCAA Tournament,” Frese said. “… Understanding it’s a quick turnaround … and understanding the scout of what lies ahead.”
The Wildcats are just two years removed from playing in the national championship and held the Mountaineers to 31.3 percent shooting from the field and 20.3 percent from three. Six-foot-two forward Cate Reese, one of the holdovers from the 2021 team, had a team-high 25 points against West Virginia.
Frese described Arizona as a defensive-oriented team and noted that both her squad and the Wildcats like to press.
“It’s definitely going to come down to two teams and who executes better on both ends of the floor,” she said.
But before that matchup, players milled around with family members and friends to celebrate the start of what the team hopes will be a long month of March.