With a smile at the podium following No. 2-seed Maryland’s 17-point Elite-Eight win over No. 3-seed Notre Dame, coach Brenda Frese said that it took some time for star players Shyanne Sellers and Diamond Miller to hit their stride as both struggled in the first half.
Through the opening 20 minutes, the duo combined for six points on 1-of-7 shooting. In the second 20, however, they had a collective 30 points on 10-for-21 shooting.
“We started out very slowly,” Miller said of her and Sellers. “It took us forever for us to pick it up, but at halftime we just knew that it was 31 to 32. And after all that we were only down one, gave us a lot of confidence that we needed to really execute the game plan in the second half.”
But Frese credited Sellers’ and Miller’s winning mentality as the spark for a big second half, where the two had 30 points. And even though the offense took a bit, the sophomore-senior combo hounded Notre Dame’s guards on defense for 40 minutes.
[Maryland women’s basketball soars to first Elite Eight since 2015, beats Notre Dame, 76-59]
Sellers had three steals, one block and led the team with a positive-29 plus-minus against the Fighting Irish. And most importantly, the Ohio native held four of Notre Dame’s top offensive players — Sonia Citron, KK Bransford, Cassandre Prosper and Maddy Westbeld — to 0-for-3 shooting and forced five turnovers as the primary defender.
As for Miller, the Big Ten all-first team member had four steals and two blocks on the defensive side.
“We talked about making them feel that pressure,” Sellers said. “Making them feel uncomfortable is kind of what we tried to do, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Sellers and her teammates executed a defensive masterclass, holding the Fighting Irish to their sixth-lowest scoring game of the season. Maryland also had 15 steals, four blocks and forced Notre Dame into a season-high 25 turnovers.
After the contest, Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said her side struggled with Maryland’s press and couldn’t keep up with the Terps in transition.
“We started the game defensively,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought we were really aggressive, being able to force them into some turnovers.”
[In potentially her last home game, Diamond Miller gave Maryland fans a night to remember]
Aside from the second quarter, Notre Dame didn’t score more than 14 points and failed to reach 20 in a single frame Saturday.
But for as much of a forgone conclusion it was that by the fourth quarter the Terps would advance to their seventh Elite Eight under Frese and first since 2015, the Fighting Irish had a one-point lead at the half.
Still, Maryland outscored the Fighting Irish 45-27 in the second half and turned defense into offense for Maryland had 18 fast-break points, thanks in large part to the team’s all-star pair.
In 34 games, Sellers Miller have been the team’s leading scorer 23 times. And while they now face an undefeated South Carolina team ranked No. 1, Frese has seen her team improve the second time after losing in the first meeting.
“We didn’t lose a lot this year, but every time we lost, it dialed them in more,” Frese said of her team. “And the response off of losses were phenomenal to watch.”