Feature photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis.
Brenda Frese’s Terrapins hung around with No. 1 UConn in the first half. An advantage in rebounding and fast break points kept the Terps’ halftime deficit at only five.
But the Huskies started the second half firing on all cylinders.
Geno Auriemma’s team took a commanding 50-31 lead after starting the half on a 14-0 run, capped off by a three from junior guard Kia Nurse.
UConn never looked back from there.
Despite the Terps’ best efforts, especially in the fourth quarter, the Huskies came away with an 87-81 victory to stay perfect on the season.
“Any time [we went on] any runs, [UConn] did a tremendous of putting that dagger in [us],” Coach Frese said.
Nurse led the way for the Huskies with 19 points on 4 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc, and sophomore guard Katie Lou Samuelson, who got sick just before tip-off, came on strong at the end with 23 points.
“[Samuelson] grew up a lot tonight,” Auriemma said. “That was not easy for her to do what she did and she was pretty spectacular.”
For Coach Frese’s team, freshman guards Kaila Charles and Destiny Slocum kept the Terps in the game offensively.
“I thought our freshmen were sensational,” Frese said. “You don’t even need to call them freshmen because I thought they were fearless and confident.”
Slocum scored 23 points and was the only Terp who found a stroke from deep, shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Charles drove to the basket at will for the Terps, scoring 18 points on 9 of 17 shooting.
“We’ll learn a lot from this game and really use it to help us move forward to play for March,” said Frese.
The Terps started out slow, turning the ball over three times and letting the Huskies jump out to a 9-2 lead. Maryland fought back to tie the game at 10, only to see UConn come right back with a 7-0 run to hold a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Terps came out firing in the second quarter. A long 2-pointer from senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough cut the UConn lead to one and caused the Xfinity Center crowd to erupt.
“Having all of those fans here, we were playing for them and playing for our team,” senior center Brionna Jones said.
Maryland eventually fought back to tie the game at 27, but the Huskies responded with a 9-0 run, kickstarted by a four-point play from junior guard Kia Nurse.
UConn looked to go into the half with all the momentum, but freshman guard Blair Watson came up with a steal-and-score for the Terps to cut the Huskies’ lead to five at halftime.
The third quarter was dominated by the Huskies’ 14-0 run, but the Terps made a run in the fourth. Maryland started the quarter on a 8-0 run and forced a UConn timeout with 7:23 to play.
“Most teams would have quit, so [the comeback] tells you about our team,” Frese said. “They’re so competitive. There’s no quit in this team.”
After picking up two early fouls and sitting for much of the first half, Brionna Jones came up big for the Terps in the second half. Jones accumulated 11 of her 19 points in the half to go along with 13 rebounds.
The fourth quarter comeback brought the sold out Xfinity Center crowd back into the game. Over 17,000 fans were behind the Terps the whole way, and did all they could to will Maryland to victory while setting a new Big Ten Women’s Basketball attendance record.
“The environment that we had tonight was really special,” Frese said. “It was incredible to be able to see.”
The Terps cut the lead as low as five midway through the fourth, and trailed by only six with one minute to play, but UConn’s offense was just too much for Maryland. Saniya Chong sealed the victory with a 3-pointer from the corner with just over 30 seconds to play.
“Given the circumstances and the way the game played out, this is probably the best win that we’ve had up to this point,” Auriemma said.
Maryland will be back in action on Sunday, Jan. 1 on the road against Minnesota at 6 p.m.
Edited by Austin Kleber.
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