Heading into Maryland’s National Semifinal game with UConn, one felt that it was possible for the Terps to beat the Huskies–but the path to victory resembled bringing Apollo 13 back from space.  We were talking about a 40-point checklist-and if one item was amiss, Tom Hanks was going to burn up in the atmosphere or float away into space (one would also have accepted a “Back to School” reference where Thornton Mellon faced a 1-question exam–in 29 parts).  The Terps actually took an 8-7 lead and were playing a one-possession game (down 22-19) against the Huskies with 9 minutes left in the first half…until the checklist began to toll against coach Brenda Frese’s team that resulted in an 81-58 loss.

Sunday’s Keys—

1-Keep Brionna Jones active inside and out of foul trouble– the sophomore sat most of the first half with two personal fouls.  Minus their low post meal ticket (she picked up foul #2 with 16:04 left and the score tied at 10), the Terps shot 6 of 14 and turned the ball over 5 times over the next 11 minutes.  UConn went on a 24-13 run to take the lead for good.

2-Rebounds and Turnovers– the Terps were outrebounded 35-28 and committed 13 turnovers (8 in the first half). One cannot give a team like UConn extra shots and/or possessions.  Breanna Stewart & Morgan Tuck outrebounded the Terps starting bigs 17-6.  Ouch…

3-Transition Team– the fast break never got in gear against a very quick UConn team that gave the Terps very few chances to run for easy baskets.  Facing a halfcourt Huskies defense, their size disadvantage was amplified.

4-Boost off the Bench– Brene Moseley shined in a reserve role…notching 12 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes.   Unfortunately, the Terps needed another monster effort or two from their subs– especially with Jones in foul trouble and the Huskies handcuffing senior Laurin Mincy (1-5 shooting, 6 turnovers).

 

Senior Sayonara– sad to see Mincy not have her best game on her final night playing for the Terps…but what a career for the guard from Newark, NJ.  Despite suffering two torn ACL’s (wiping out her senior year of high school and most of her junior season at Maryland), Laurin scored 1,379 career points and provided the necesary leadership with a very young team this past winter (3 starters were sophomores).  Best wishes to Laurin–as it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to cover her since she walked on Campus in 2010.

 

Next Year–  the bar has always been there.  It’s UConn (and Notre Dame to a lesser degreee).  How does an elite program like Maryland scale the “super-ultra-premium-elite” wall?  It’s tough for a program that’s made two straight Final Fours and just wrapped up an unbeaten conference season to say to itself in the mirror, “we need to get even better”.  It’s a challenge for a squad with three returning All-Big Ten players to the starting lineup to remark, “we have deficiencies that need to be addressed”.  To get to UConn’s level, the Terps need athletic size inside and more consistent shooting on the perimeter.  Can those needs be met with the players returning this fall?  Unless either of the 5-star recruits Kiah Gillespie and Brianna Fraser rock the world from day one on campus, it’ll have to be.  The road to Indianapolis begins today…

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