The West Virginia Mountaineers came into Sunday’s matchup with the Terps as one of the hottest teams in the country after winning the Big 12 Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they ran into a Maryland team that was clicking on all cylinders.
Led by a dominant second quarter, the Terps defeated West Virginia 83-56 to advance to the Sweet 16.
“On a scale of one to 100, today was 100,” head coach Brenda Frese said.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones both came up big in their final game at Xfinity Center. Walker-Kimbrough tallied 19 points while Jones dropped in a team-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Destiny Slocum was also able to break out in the scoring department. After recording only five points in Maryland’s first-round win over Bucknell on Friday, the freshman point guard scored 21 points, dished out eight assists and pulled in four rebounds in Sunday’s win.
The Mountaineers came out ready to play in College Park, and their defense was effective in locking down the Terps in the first quarter.. The West Virginia defense held the Terps to 28 percent shooting in the first quarter while senior center Lanay Montgomery was able to deny Brionna Jones the ball inside. Maryland’s All-Big Ten center was held to just four points in the frame.
West Virginia held a 16-12 lead after 10 minutes, but in the second quarter, the Maryland offense picked up substantially. A quick 7-0 run to give the Terps lead forced a timeout from Mountaineers head coach Mike Carey. The break in action didn’t stop the run.
The Terps continued to score, even without relying on Jones, who had only eight points at the half. They instead forced nine West Virginia turnovers that led to easy baskets at the other end, and helped Maryland outscore the Mountaineers 26-8 in the second quarter.
“In the second quarter we kind of laid back and we weren’t as aggressive,” Montgomery said. “Our shots weren’t falling. We weren’t communicating on defense.”
As the final seconds of the first half ran down,Slocum, who scored 11 points in the half, threw a basketball from the opposite 3-point line and it went into the basket. The miraculous bucket gave the Terps a 38-24 lead at the half.
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) March 19, 2017
“[I thought] ‘just kind of throw it up and see what happens,’” Slocum said. “Watching that thing was crazy. I was in shock.”
Overshadowed by the big scoring run was the fact that Maryland again had a great defensive half. It held the Mountaineers to 31.4 percent shooting the first 20 minutes, and held leading scorer Tynice Martin to six points on 3-of-13 shooting. That defensive intensity was led by Stephanie Jones, who had two steals and wrecked havoc inside in five important minutes in the second frame.
“I think it’s given me a lot of confidence just to know that [coach Frese] put me in two games that are very high-pressure,” the younger Jones sister said. “That just shows that she believes in what I can do [on defense].”
The Terps held Martin to 10 points on 3-of-18 shooting for the game, and the West Virginia sophomore guard was never able to get her shot going. The Mountaineers’ offense a whole struggled all day, and shot only 32 percent from the floor.
“I can’t say enough about what Shatori and the team did with [Martin] defensively,” Frese said. “She’s so talented. To be able to hold her to 10 points took a great team effort.”
Frese was proud because her team had begun to put into place the defensive intensity that she has preached all season.
“Coach put a lot of pressure on us just to kind of pick up our defensive energy and effort, and that’s a big thing for us that we’ve been working on all season,” Slocum said. “I think right now the pieces are kind of falling together. Our communication is on key, everything’s on key.”
In the third quarter, West Virginia was finally able to score some points, but Jones got into her offense rhythm and helped the Terps pull away. The senior tallied eight points in the quarter on easy looks at the rim, and Maryland held a 63-42 lead after three quarters.
During the final 10 minutes, Frese was able to again bring in her bench players to get good NCAA Tournament experience. The head coach also had a chance to bring Walker-Kimbrough and Jones out of the game at home for the final time. The moment was filled with hugs and a standing ovation from the Xfinity Center crowd.
“It’s a beautiful way to send them out,” Frese said. “A fitting way for us to send them out of College Park.”
The Terps outscored the Mountaineers 71-40 over the final three quarters, basically dominating the entire game after the first quarter. That momentum is crucial for Maryland, as it is looking at a possible Sweet 16 matchup with former ACC rival Duke on Saturday.
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