During the first stoppage of the third quarter Sunday evening, Maryland coach Brenda Frese left the bench and walked to center court. There, she met senior guard Diamond Miller with a smile and a two-handed high five.
Needing a spark after a sloppy second quarter in which second-seeded Maryland (27-6) saw a nine-point lead evaporate into a one-point deficit, the Terps turned to their senior leader and she delivered.
Miller, who likely played her final game at the Xfinity Center, started with a layup through a foul and then nailed a wide-open three. She helped trap an Arizona guard in the corner on the ensuing defensive possession, forcing a Wildcats timeout.
The New Jersey native scored 13 of her 24 points in the third and helped her side to a 77-64 win over No. 7 Arizona (22-10). She also tied her career-high with seven assists and had six rebounds.
“Your All-American does what she’s supposed to do,” Frese said of Miller. “The third quarter was Miller time. Coming out 9-0 to start third and like we’ve seen Diamond do so many times in this building … just will her team.”
Maryland will face No. 3-seed Notre Dame, which defeated Mississippi State earlier Sunday, in its 11th Sweet Sixteen appearance under Frese. The Terps have lost in the tournament’s third round in each of the last two seasons.
The game will be a rematch of an early-December meeting in which Miller hit a buzzer-beater to defeat a Notre Dame team that was ranked No. 7.
“This group is not satisfied just to be able to get to the Sweet 16,” Frese said. “This started with their work last summer and the trust and the belief that you see how much we love each other, how much we want to continue to keep playing on.”
When the final buzzer sounded, Abby Meyers and Elisa Pinzan jumped up and down together in celebration of making it past the tournament’s first weekend for the first time in their careers. Two of the team’s other transfers, Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs, had never even played in the tournament.
The game started perfectly for Maryland. Sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers opened the scoring and shortly thereafter found Miller streaking up the court for an uncontested layup. And even before Miller banked in her shot, Arizona coach Adia Barnes signaled for a timeout.
With just under five and a half minutes left in the first quarter, Sellers launched another full-court pass that landed in Miller’s hands. Afterward, Sellers blew on her hand as if to cool it off. The scores came as part of an early surge for the Terps, who sprinted out to a 12-2 lead.
“We’ve been really working on when team scoring, we got to get the ball out and run it down their throats, keeping them on our heels,” Sellers said. “Obviously, when I get my teammates involved and we’re going on a run, it’s always fun to add a little bit of flair.”
Sellers, who finished with 15 points, also showed her defensive chops, finishing with two blocks and two steals.
Arizona went almost two and a half minutes without scoring to start as the Terps held their opponent to under 10 points in the first quarter for the second straight game. The Wildcats, which lost in the 2021 final, shot just 23.1 percent from the field in the frame.
“They outplayed us, especially in the first couple minutes of the game and the third quarter,” Barnes said. “They made some things really difficult for us.”
But for as good as Sellers and the Terps played in the first, they struggled in the second.
The sophomore picked up two quick fouls in the frame, which sent her to the bench. With Sellers out of the game, Arizona went on a 21-7 run — by the time she returned, the Terps were down four. Maryland was outscored, 25-15, in the second quarter.
The Terps rebounded in the third, with Miller carrying her team on both ends of the floor. The Wildcats finished the quarter with nine points and made just three of their 15 shots. Maryland, meanwhile, went 11-for-14 in a 29-point quarter it ended up by 19.
That advantage shrunk slightly in the final frame, but the Maryland win was never in doubt.
“We just play hard every day,” Miller said. “I don’t think we really care about who’s scoring or not. It just happened to be [me] today.”
Cate Reese had a team-high 19 points for Arizona and Shaina Pellington added 13. For Maryland, Faith Masonius and Alexander each had 12.