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Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball laments ‘silly mistakes’ in NCAA tournament loss, looks forward to next opportunity

For much of one quarter, the Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with a Final Four contender.

Then the No. 15 seed Mountaineers wilted under the unrelenting pressure of No. 2 seed Maryland’s explosive offense in a 98-45 rout Monday afternoon in an NCAA first-round game at The Alamodome in San Antonio.

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The showing was a disappointing end for a season in which Mount St. Mary’s (17-7) captured its first Northeast Conference regular-season title since 2001 and its first league tournament championship since 1995, which was also the last time the program had made an appearance in the NCAA postseason.

“Obviously, it’s a huge bummer for our season to come to an end, and I think we’re going to kick ourselves because I feel like we didn’t put our best foot forward today,” coach Maria Marchesano said. “We didn’t play the best game we could have. But at the end of the day, there’s multiple pros on that team — five, six, maybe seven or eight WNBA players in that program. We’re going to pull for them as a fellow Maryland school, and hopefully, they do well in the tournament, but they kicked our butts today. The girls scrapped, and I’m really proud of how we played, but like I said, that’s an elite basketball team, and there’s not much you can do with that.”

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The Mountaineers did not initially appear intimidated by the Big Ten champion Terps (25-2), who sprinted to a 10-4 advantage in the first 3:11 of the opening quarter. But Mount St. Mary’s embarked on an 8-3 run capped by a 3-pointer from junior point guard Michaela Harrison to close within one at 13-12 with 5:11 remaining.

After Maryland scored the next five points, redshirt sophomore shooting guard Aryna Taylor drained a 3-pointer to pull the Mountaineers within 18-15 with 3:20 left in the first quarter.

But that was the closest Mount St. Mary’s got as Maryland closed the frame on a 10-3 spurt and then erupted for 25 points in the second quarter en route to a 53-22 lead at halftime.

“It was just silly mistakes that we were making,” senior center Rebecca Lee said. “I think in the first quarter, we were doing well, and then we got comfortable with that. We started messing up, and that’s when Maryland pulled away.”

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The Mountaineers like to play fast, but they got a lesson in speed from the Terps, who owned a 28-2 advantage in fast-break points and converted Mount St. Mary’s 20 turnovers into 30 points.

“They score the ball at an extremely high rate,” Marchesano said. “And we did some silly things in transition D today. We were locked into our matchups, and you can’t be locked into your matchups in transition D. A couple times we got back, and somebody was behind our back and ahead for an easy layup. That’s uncharacteristic for us. We’re usually pretty good at matching up in transition and making sure they don’t get easy looks. In the first half, we just had some silly mistakes, and that really hurt us because that allowed them to extend their lead on us.”

Harrison compiled eight points, four assists and two steals and was joined as the team leader in points by Taylor and senior shooting guard Bridget Birkhead. Lee finished with seven points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

But with the 6-foot-2 Lee playing the final 10:58 with four fouls, the Mountaineers succumbed to Maryland’s size. Six-foot sophomore point guard Ashley Owusu amassed 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, 6-3 sophomore shooting guard Diamond Miller scored 19 points, 6-1 senior small forward Chloe Bibby registered her fourth double double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, 6-3 redshirt sophomore power forward Mimi Collins chipped in 12 points, and 6-3 freshman power forward Angel Reese (St. Frances) came off the bench to contribute 11 points and six rebounds. The Terps outscored Mount St. Mary’s 52-12 in the paint.

Marchesano lauded her players’ effort, but noted the impact of a 24.6% shooting rate (15-of-61), which was well below their season rate of 40.6% (732-of-1802).

“I was proud of the looks we were getting,” she said. “You saw in the first quarter that when a couple of those went down, we were able to hang with them for a little bit. But ultimately, we didn’t hit shots. Obviously, it’s tough to get stops when you’re not as athletic or as long as them, but we got some early stops and hit some early shots, and it was a whole different ballgame. We go ice cold and we’re shooting, I think, 21 or 22 percent at halftime. It’s hard to beat anyone when you shoot in the 20s.”

As much as the setback might sting, Lee provided some perspective when asked how long it would take for her to rebound from the loss.

“Probably an hour,” she said. “Time moves on. You can’t let it get to you. Thankfully, some people get to go to this another year, and you get to push it. It’s something to look forward to. As far as I know, the world’s not ending tomorrow. So we can come back next year.”

Body blows

No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s absorbed a 53-point loss to No. 2 seed Maryland in Monday’s NCAA tournament first-round game. Here are some of the worst setbacks the Mountaineers have suffered under coach Maria Marchesano.

Date; Opponent; Score

Nov. 11, 2017; Notre Dame; 121-65

March 22, 2021; Maryland; 98-45

Dec. 21, 2019; Old Dominion; 85-34

Nov. 9, 2018; Michigan; 88-40

Dec. 6, 2017; Maryland; 97-57

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