Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
The Terps came into Saturday’s Sweet 16 game just one win away from a much-anticipated rematch with UConn.
That win never came.
The 10th-seeded Oregon Ducks outplayed Maryland for 40 minutes, and came away with a 77-63 upset victory over the Terps.
“They were just overall the better team tonight,” Terps’ guard Destiny Slocum said.
Five Ducks scored in double figures, including ESPNW’s National Freshman of the Year Sabrina Ionescu, who tallied a team-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with seven assists and six rebounds.
For the Terps, Brionna Jones recorded another double-double, picking up 16 points and 15 rebounds, but was not as dominant as usual in the paint. Oregon’s game plan for the senior center was successful.
“I think early on I wasn’t being as patient as I normally am, but credit to them,” Jones said. “They came out hard on defense.”
Jones’ fellow senior, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, also didn’t have her best performance in her final game as a Terrapin. She scored 16 points on only 6-of-18 shooting.
“I think at times we were maybe overthinking it,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “It took us a little bit to get in our rhythm and in that span they took advantage.”
The team as a whole just couldn’t bring it all together on offense, which led to the loss. The Terps shot 46 percent but did not knock down any of their six 3-point attempts, and turned the ball over 21 times.
“[Defense] was the key to the game,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “We didn’t turn the ball over a lot, so they weren’t able to get out and get easy baskets in transition. We played the game at our tempo. We played about a good a game as we can play.”
Slocum, who has limited turnovers all season, committed five of those turnovers, and scored only nine points on 3-of-8 shooting.
“I think defensively they gave us a lot of different looks,” Frese said. “Obviously it’s uncharacteristic for Destiny to have five turnovers.”
With the 11:30 a.m. tip off, which was 8:30 a.m. local time for Oregon, both teams looked like they hadn’t quite woken up yet in the first five minutes. There were no points on the scoreboard for almost three minutes, and Maryland’s first basket came four-and-a-half minutes into the contest.
“I thought [Oregon] punched first,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought they were fearless, aggressive and confident.”
The scoring picked up near the end of the quarter, as both team were able to get easy baskets down low. The Terps, however, did not make a jump shot in the first 10 minutes, and trailed 17-16 after one quarter.
The offense then fell apart for Maryland in the second frame. Frese’s team turned the ball over nine times in the quarter and made only four of 11 shots. The Terps did not make a 3-point shot in the first half, and their first made jump shot didn’t come until there was one minute to play in the half.
“I thought we pressed early,” Frese said. “They took the air out of the ball, which was a really smart move by them, but we didn’t handle it well at all.”
Oregon wasn’t much better offensively, but three second-quarter 3-pointers from freshman guard Sabrina Ionescu helped the Ducks to a 36-27 halftime lead.
Almost all of Maryland’s first half offense came from the inside. Forwards Brionna Jones, Brianna Fraser and Stephanie Jones combined for 21 first-half points, while guards Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Destiny Slcoum shot a combined 2-of-9 from the field.
The Ducks were able to disrupt Maryland’s offensive flow, jumping in almost every passing lane and mostly holding Jones to one shot on the inside. On offense, Graves’ team utilized the pick-and-roll on most possessions, causing Maryland defender to switch into tough matchups size-wise in the post.
The third quarter started a little better for the Terps, and they cut the Oregon lead to three early in the frame. However, the Ducks quickly responded with a 7-0 run that was kickstarted by a three-point play from sophomore forward Oti Gildon, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
“[Oti] is fearless,” Graves said. “She gives us an energy that others don’t. Her confidence is rising game in and game out.”
Later in the quarter, back-to-back wide open corner 3-pointer from junior guard Lexi Bando would put the Ducks up 53-41, and force a Frese timeout. The Ducks would eventually make seven consecutive shots near the end of the quarter, and hold a 59-47 lead after 30 minutes of play.
Bando scored only 10 points, but her three 3-pointers were pivotal in Oregon’s victory.
The Terps had one run left in them in the fourth quarter. An 8-0 run cut the Oregon lead to eight with three minutes to play, but Ionescu answered with a basket to put the game away.
Although Ionescu hit the big shots, Oregon got contributions from all around. Freshman forward Ruthy Hebard scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while guard Maite Cazorla added 15 points. The team shot 46 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and made 15 of 16 free throws, which was key in the victory.
With the season over, the Terps will now face life without Jones or Walker-Kimbrough going forward, but a talented group of six freshman is the future for Maryland.
They’re going to hand the baton off to the next wave of players,” Frese said. “I can’t say enough in terms of what they embodied on the court and off the court, and I know they’re going to continue on and do great things.”
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