Maryland women’s basketball entered Wednesday night’s game against Michigan tied with the Wolverines and Penn State for fifth place in Big Ten standings.
A win would have moved the Terps into a tie for fourth place and perhaps help them break away from the rest of the pack before the final month of the regular season. Instead, a loss knocked Maryland back down to a .500 conference record for the fourth time this season.
The Terps don’t just need to prove themselves in the Big Ten. ESPN’s latest bracketology, published Jan. 23, puts Maryland as a No. 9 seed. Brenda Frese’s squad hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 2010.
The outcome looked promising for Maryland, which was up 15 at halftime. But Michigan wore away the Terps’ lead during the second half and ultimately won the game in overtime.
“We let that slip through our fingers,” Lavender Briggs said. “Right now, it’s kind of make it or break it and right now we’re at the breaking point. We’re just trying to stay together as a team so we can get over that hump.”
The Terps lost their composure and energy in a second half that resulted in their seventh loss of the season — the same number of losses they had at the end of the 2022-23 season after the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
Similar to previous conference losses, Maryland started the third quarter “sluggish,” Frese said. The Wolverines outrebounded the Terps 15-4 in the frame. Rebounds gave Michigan second chance points and allowed it to rush the ball up the court to score before Maryland set up its defense. The Wolverines went on a 13-2 run and outscored the Terps by seven in the frame.
The Wolverines grabbed so many missed shots because of the Terps’ floundering field goal percentage. Maryland missed seven straight field goal attempts to begin the second half. Each time, a Michigan player snagged the rebound.
“I thought we lost a lot of [our poise and composure] in the second half and Michigan had a lot to do with that with the aggressiveness that they play with on both ends of the floor,” Frese said. “But from our end, we’ve got to be able to maintain that composure.”
Kubek made a three-pointer that ended the Terps’ field goal drought more than six minutes into the second half. But then, Maryland’s composure crumbled.
Bri McDaniel was ejected alongside Michigan’s Lauren Hansen after a held ball turned into a physical altercation.
Frese hoped the ejection would light a fire under her team after its flat start to the second half. Instead, Maryland lost one of its primary ball handlers and best defenders while Michigan was “inspired,” per Frese, by Hansen’s departure.
Perhaps because of this added motivation, the Wolverines fought even harder in the fourth quarter and outscored the Terps 17-9. Maryland’s defensive miscommunications and a lack of poise led to seven personal fouls and six turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Brinae Alexander fouled out in the fourth quarter and Shyanne Sellers followed her after a minute of overtime, leaving the Terps shorthanded in the final minutes of a disappointing loss
“We can control the poise and the composure piece and that’s an area that our team’s got to be able to grow up with,” Frese said.