Sunday, March 23 at Comcast Center in College Park, MD, the #4 seeded Maryland Terrapins faced off against the #13 Army Black Knights in round one of the NCAA Division One Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Terps, who are hosting rounds one and two of the tournament, entered with a 24-6 overall record; 12-4 in the ACC. The Black Knights were 25-7 overall; 14-4 in the Patriot League. The Terrapins, who played their last game on March 7 during the first round of the ACC Tournament (in which they lost 70-73 to North Carolina), met Army, champions of their conference (winning 68-58 over Holy Cross on March 15), for the first time ever. Army was making their sophomore debut at the big dance; meanwhile Maryland, a veteran, returned for the 22nd time, and 10th under head coach Brenda Frese.
Terrapins forward Alyssa Thomas scored the first points, but Army’s Jen Hazlett quickly tied the game. Maryland was able to take back and maintain the lead until 9:42 left in the first half when a three-pointer by Army’s Jean Parker tied up the game again at 15. Another three-pointer by Kelsey Minato put Army up by three. A layup by Terps’ Lexie Brown set off a 29-2 run in which the Terps headed to the locker room at half time leading 44-20. Army’s Kelsey Minato said, “it’s like we woke up a beast.”
The Terps returned in the second half with the same veracity, with guard Katie Rutan scoring all of her 11 points in the second half. Army changed their strategy in the second half, which led to freshman center Briona Jones guarding Army guards, something she wasn’t familiar with, but ultimately Maryland’s size, defense, transition game, and speed was too much for them and the Terps dominated the Black Knights 90-52. Maryland peaked at 5:36 left in the game with a 41 point lead.
“After we got the jitters out to start the game and both teams were really fired up, I thought we were able to really show what separates us and make us special. Our defense and our rebounding really led to transition. We were really able to use our depth today. We really shared the basketball. We made really easy plays; we were really having a lot of fun and that was just a tremendous game for us to be able to come out in this first round,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game.
Freshman Lexie Brown scored a team-high of 21 points with three three-pointers. Sophomore Tierney Pfirman also entered double digits with 10. Senior Alyssa Thomas’s 13 points secured her place as Maryland’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Juan Dixon’s 2,269 career points. Thomas currently has a career record of 2,271 points and added another double-double to her stats.
Coach Brenda Frese credited Thomas for the Terp’s late run in the first half. “She gave us a great, calming presence in the timeout and gave great confidence to the entire team. We changed our defense. I thought some of the switches that we made defensively really helped us and we were able to get going with our transition.”
Leading for the Black Knights was guard Kelsey Minato with 27 points, followed by guard Jen Hazlett with nine points. The sole senior was emotional during the playing of the team’s alma mater and said during the post-game press conference, “It’s been a very memorable experience. It’s something that doesn’t come very often and for me has only happened once in my career. Thankfully I’m going out on kind of a high note.”
The Terrapins’ win today advances them to the second round where they will face fifth-seeded Texas on Tuesday, March 25 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and on ESPN3.com. Tickets are still available to see the game in person at umterps.com.