COLLEGE PARK — The last time the Maryland women’s basketball team lost three straight games in nonconference play, Brenda Frese was a first-year coach of a struggling program.
The Terps on Sunday narrowly avoided joining that 2002 team by defeating Syracuse, 83-81, ending their brief, yet still unfamiliar, two-game losing skid. Last week, No. 20 Maryland lost on the road to No. 1 South Carolina and No. 8 UConn — two of the premier programs in the nation.
The bounce-back win didn’t come easy, though. Syracuse led by three points at halftime and for much of the third quarter. But the Terps, led by Allie Kubek (23 points, eight rebounds) and Shyanne Sellers (19 points, eight rebounds), got the upper hand in the back-and-forth second half and held off the Orange.
“You’re back at home, you need to be able to show that resiliency and that bounce-back [ability],” Frese said. “It’s kind of an exhausting time right now with two back-to-back road games, and they laid down somewhere after 2 a.m. on that Friday to turnaround to a noon tip [Sunday]. Then we turnaround and play three games in three days in Cancun, so really, really important today for us to fight through that fatigue to be able to pull this game out.”
It appeared a third straight loss — which would’ve been Maryland’s first such skid at any point in a season since February 2018 — was imminent when Syracuse held a game-high seven-point lead late in the third quarter. But Kubek spearheaded a fierce 8-0 run in the span of just one minute to shift the momentum in the Terps’ direction. Kubek, a junior forward, scored six of the eight points during the surge.
“Those two games on the road was kind of a hard thing,” Kubek said. “I’m glad that I could contribute to my team and just help for the win, but I’m glad that we won total.”
The Terps led by eight with two minutes remaining — just enough to stave off Syracuse’s inspired comeback attempt. The Orange had an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds, but the Terps’ stout defense caused a turnover. Bri McDaniel came up with the steal and sprinted toward Maryland’s bench in celebration as the crowd at Xfinity Center roared.
Despite the win, the Terps are potentially at risk of falling out of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll for the first time since the 2010-11 season because of their losses to South Carolina and UConn by a combined 70 points. Maryland (2-2) has been ranked in 251 straight AP polls, the second-longest streak in the nation behind UConn (566 weeks). The AP poll is released Monday.
Syracuse (3-1) led midway through the first quarter, but Kubek scored seven points in the final two minutes of the period to give the Terps a 24-18 lead. Kubek, a Towson transfer who missed last season with a torn ACL, was 10 of 14 from the field off the bench.
Maryland’s offense went cold in the second, though, and allowed the Orange to go on a 9-0 run to enter halftime with a lead. The Terps retook the lead early in the third on a layup from Kubek, an Elkton native, and a 3-pointer from Brinae Alexander (10 points), but Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair hit back-to-back 3s and Kyra Wood added a layup to put the Orange up seven.
Syracuse didn’t immediately go away after the Kubek-led charge late in the third, as the Orange held a one-point lead early in the fourth. Sellers, the team’s leading scorer at 20.3 points per game, and McDaniel, who provided a defensive spark off the bench, then took turns scoring four straight points to give the Terps their largest lead since early in the second. McDaniel scored 12 points and added a team-high five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Sellers started slow, failing to make a basket until the final seconds of the first half, but the junior guard made all seven of her free throw attempts and matched McDaniel with five steals.
“I think I’m more than just a scorer,” Sellers said. “I think when my shot isn’t falling I can get it going another way. Obviously I was struggling a little bit, but I had rebounds, steals, just going to my defensive side. I feel like that had a spark, and clearly we have enough talent on this team for everyone else to help me out when I have a bad night.”
Maryland maintained control for the remainder of the game, although Syracuse cut its deficit to two in the final minute. A calm floater from Sellers, a clutch baby jumper from Jakia Brown-Turner (eight points), an Oxon Hill native, and McDaniel’s last-second steal delivered a much-needed win.
“Just coming in ready to disrupt,” McDaniel said of her mindset on the final possession. “I wanted to make the play, and I made it.”
No. 20 Maryland vs. No. 24 Washington State
Thursday, 11 a.m.