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3 takeaways from Maryland’s loss to Texas in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament

The Maryland women’s basketball team’s exciting run in the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt end in the Sweet 16 on Sunday night as No. 6 seed Texas shut down the high-scoring Terps in a manner few could accomplish this year.

Much of No. 2 seed Maryland’s play, especially late, looked uncharacteristic of a team that could demoralize opponents with unstoppable offense, crushing defense and smooth, unselfish play.

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That’s March, senior Chloe Bibby said – it’s just how the game goes sometimes. She never gave up on her team, no matter how many seconds remained.

“There was no point. I’ve always got my team,” she said. “Every night, I’ve got my team.”

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The 2021-22 Maryland team will look quite similar — and should be just as dangerous.

Sometimes, when teams fall out of the NCAA tournament sooner than expected, it spells heartbreak for seniors who will never have the chance to fight for their college team again.

Maryland’s fortunate in this. Every player should return next year because of an additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. Coach Brenda Frese said she hopes Bibby and graduate transfer Katie Benzan come back to give their collective national title dreams another go.

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“I’m so proud of these girls. They came out all season and fought. I think inexperience did show tonight — this is the first time they’ve had big lights on them for a lot of our team,” Bibby said. “But that’s great exposure. You need those moments.”

If anything, the Terps will be in a better place than they were this March. With the impressive offensive output Maryland displayed game to game, it’s easy to forget that they were missing someone. Redshirt junior Channise Lewis should make her highly anticipated return from an ACL injury and add another valuable jolt to 2021′s best offense.

Guard Zoe Young will be more fully recovered from her own lasting injury and produce the way the Terps believe she can.

With Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller making older teams inferior on any given night, it’s hard to remember how young they are, too. Owusu and Miller should only blossom as they enter their junior seasons, as should sophomore Faith Masonius. Angel Reese (St. Frances) and Mimi Collins will enter their second years with Maryland with room to grow, too.

“This is not going to stop us,” Bibby said. “We’re going to come back hungrier next year.”

Texas' Kyra Lambert heads for the basket after a steal to score during the final minute against Maryland in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Sunday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Texas' Kyra Lambert heads for the basket after a steal to score during the final minute against Maryland in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Sunday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (Morry Gash)

Texas’ defense punished the Terps in a way they weren’t used to.

Maryland shocked team after team with its ability to put overwhelming numbers on the scoreboard. The Terps averaged 99 points in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. They’d scored 100 points or more seven times, averaging 91.8 points per game — the most in Division I all season long.

Once Texas’ defense woke up, it washed away the Maryland everyone knew.

Not once this season did Maryland score as few as 61 points. The Terps’ late-game behavior doesn’t reflect a team capable of getting the better of close games. It’s what they did against Indiana on Jan. 4, 84-80, and Wisconsin on Jan 17, 79-70.

Even the first round of the Big Ten tournament would’ve spelled doom for Maryland had the Terps not gotten themselves together in the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, Maryland shot 6-for-17 (35.3%) in the fourth quarter. Texas shot 45.5%.

“We’ve been in plenty of situations, games that have been a lot of pressure. The Big Ten obviously prepared us. These guys have been in a lot of moments within their career,” Frese said. “This is the first time many of our kids… are going through the NCAA tournament. All of this is gonna make us better.”

Maryland’s bench fell silent.

One of Maryland’s most prized assets this season was its relentless bench, a crew of players who could refresh the starters without any drop in quality.

That bench exemplified just how good it could be Wednesday, when it came together to score 46 points of the team’s 100 points.

On Sunday, nothing of the sort happened. Altogether, the bench netted six points.

Their minutes were limited. Senior Alaysia Styles, who showed out against Northwestern in the Big Ten semifinal with 15 points, played eight minutes with two points. Reese went scoreless, 0-for-6 from the field, and pulled down five rebounds in nine minutes.

Masonius played the longest, 16 minutes, and scored four points.

Several bench players never got in, either. Taisiya Kozlova, known for making clutch 3-pointers on occasion, nor Young made an appearance.

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