With a chance to repeat as champion in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in jeopardy, the 10th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team leaned on junior forward Alyssa Thomas, and the two-time conference Player of the Year delivered a performance that, coupled with a stifling defense in overtime, allowed the Terps to outlast Wake Forest, 92-81, in the quarterfinals Friday night at Greensboro Coliseum.
Disregarding stomach discomfort that had been bothering her since Tuesday, Thomas collected the first triple double in ACC tournament history, scoring a career-high 32 points, including eight in overtime, with 13 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the second triple double of the season for Thomas and came two days after she was named conference Player of the Year.
The only player in program history to win the award twice began overtime with a layup, and senior Tianna Hawkins added a layup while getting fouled. The first-team All-ACC forward made the bonus free throw before Thomas made two more foul shots for an 86-79 lead, sending the second-seeded Terps (23-6) on their way to this afternoon's semifinal against North Carolina in their bid for an ACC-record 11th tournament title.
Moments later, Thomas made one of two free throws and hit a jumper in the lane between two defenders. By that time, 10th-seeded Wake Forest (13-18) had had three players foul out, leaving few options other than junior guard Chelsea Douglas (career-high 31 points), whose two free throws produced the only points for the Demon Deacons in overtime.
"I knew [Thomas] wasn't going to allow us to lose to her brother's team," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, referencing Devin Thomas, a freshman forward for the Demon Deacons. "What you see with AT is what makes her the two-time Player of the Year. All the plays she makes for this team, with her ability to score the ball, with her ability to lead and get assists for everyone on the team and her ability to go to the glass."
In beating Wake Forest for a 15th straight time, Maryland shot 50 percent and had a 42-30 edge in points in the paint. The Terps had four players in double figures, including 17 points and 12 rebounds by Hawkins. Freshman guard Chloe Pavlech scored 14 points, making four of five 3-pointers, and junior guard Katie Rutan had 13.
Rutan had a chance to win the game in regulation, but her 3-pointer glanced off the rim at the buzzer seconds after Wake Forest senior forward Sandra Garcia made two foul shots to tie it at 79 with 5.4 seconds left.
Wake Forest started the second half on a 9-2 run during which it took its first lead of the game. Senior guard Asia Williams began it with a field goal, and Douglas drove for a layup for a 47-46 advantage. Williams made another basket moments later, but Maryland got a jumper from Hawkins to get within one.
Williams made an uncontested 3-pointer to trigger another burst, and by the time Douglas made one of two foul shots, the Demon Deacons had their largest lead of the game, 57-50, with 14:08 left in regulation.
Maryland quickly countered, as Thomas scored on a put-back and was fouled. She made the free throw, and Hawkins scored on a fast break before Lekevia Boykin gave the Demon Deacons a 59-55 cushion. The Terrapins then scored six of the next eight points, including consecutive baskets from Hawkins and junior center Alicia DeVaughn, to tie it at 61 with 9:02 to play.
Wake Forest reclaimed the lead with six straight points before Thomas turned in one of her most assertive stretches and enabled the Terps to even the score. First she scored on layup and shortly thereafter delivered a pass on the break to Rutan for another layup.
In the final minutes of regulation, the lead changed seven times.
"It's tournament time, so we expect everybody to try their best because no one wants to go home," Thomas said.
At Greensboro, N.C.
No. 2 seed Maryland vs. No. 3 North Carolina
Today, 3:30 p.m.
TV: CSNP, TCNCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun