With a spot in the Sweet 16 against No. 2 Seed UCONN on the line, both teams laid it all out on the floor playing with an eclectic pace in front of a raucous crowd at the Xfinity Center. Neither team was able to establish a large lead, however, UCLA’s 27 offensive rebounds and 27 second chance points proved to be the difference in the Bruins 85-80 victory.
After scoring 31 points in the third quarter and firing on all cylinders offensively, the Terps (29-5) struggled down the stretch scoring just nine points in the fourth and shooting 20 percent from the field. The Bruins scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and converted on free throw opportunities, putting together a string of stops down the stretch.
“I think you saw that there was a little bit more size, length, and athleticism position wise for UCLA over us,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought they were able to take advantage of that.”
The duo of Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean were pivotal for the Bruins throughout, scoring 30 and 22 points respectively. Kennedy Burke had a strong game as well with 19 points. The trio combined to score 71 of UCLA’s 85 points. On several possessions off offensive rebounds, the Bruins were able to reset the offense and catch the Terps defense out of position.
“I have to give credit to Lajahna Drummer, Michaela Onyenwere first and I think Kennedy Burke really stepped up,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said. “I don’t think you can underestimate the effort, they were relentless out of area rebounds.”
Lajahna Drummer grabbed eight offensive rebounds for the Bruins and Onyenwere grabbed six as well, allowing the Bruins to reset their offense. Coming into the game UCLA averaged 16.9 offensive rebounds and grabbed 17 in just the first half with Onyenwere and Burke leading the way.
“I think it just comes down to who wanted it more and I think that showed,” junior forward Stephanie Jones said. “We just didn’t do our job with boxing them out.”
The game began with fast-paced action, both teams pushing the ball and trying to score quickly. Jones caught fire early for Maryland with seven early points, finding open space on the high screen and roll and scoring 13 of her 15 points in the quarter.
However, the Bruins also had it going early offensively. Burke scored 11 early points helping energize the UCLA offense. After UCLA’s offensive success in the first quarter, Frese made an adjustment switching to a 2-3 zone defense trying to take the Bruins out of rhythm.
Switching up the defense slowed down the UCLA offense briefly, however, the Bruins continued to score timely baskets in the second quarter. Dean and Onyenwere knocked down back-to-back threes extending the Bruins lead to 38-30 their largest of the game. However, Maryland continued to battle back cutting the halftime deficit to four.
Maryland came out in the second half inspired, jumping out with an immediate 7-0 run to retake the lead 47-44. Shakira Austin used her length and Channise Lewis used her quickness, getting their hands into the passing lane allowing the Terps transition opportunities. Kaila Charles went straight at her defender and finished the layup plus the foul, beginning a strong third quarter where she scored 17 points.
“I have a difficult time if we are not playing with confidence because we can control that,” Frese said.
“Coach kept telling me in the first half, things are going to get going for you,” Charles said. “The third quarter we came out very aggressive, and I think our defense led to a lot of my points because they were getting a lot of stops.”
After Maryland retook the lead, UCLA continued to battle with both teams going back and forth for the lead. However, the Bruins battled back converting at the line not scoring a field goal the final 4:55 of the third quarter.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Maryland gained momentum sending the Xfinity Center into a frenzy with strong defense leading to offense. Austin had one of her game-high six blocks and followed that up soon after with a second-chance opportunity. In the final six seconds of the third, Lewis jumped the passing lane and finished a lefty layup off the window at the buzzer giving Maryland a 71-66 at the end of three quarters.
When it seemed like Maryland had gained all the momentum, UCLA bounced right back scoring consecutive baskets to start the final frame forcing Frese to call timeout. In the fourth, Dean continued to attack the basket drawing fouls, but Onyenwere also showed off her versatile offensive arsenal scoring in a variety of ways.
The final four minutes saw UCLA close out the game on a 9-4 run, locking up on defense not allowing the Terps anything easy even when they got second chance opportunities.
With the loss, the Terps lost in the Round of 32 for the second consecutive season, but have a lot to look forward to in the future. Maryland has nine players returning next season with a loaded freshman class expected to make an impact.
“We are going to utilize the experience factor of our vets with the young energy, like you saw,” Frese said. “To get to 29 wins, you add four more players to the rotation, the future is extremely bright.”
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