COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland women’s basketball program had never beaten UConn — arguably the sport’s pillar of dominance and success — in seven meetings, but had its best chance to end that streak on Sunday with the Huskies having only seven players available.
The No. 20 Terps took advantage of their opportunity, as four players scored in double digits to complete an 85-78 upset of the No. 6 Huskies before an announced 12,566 at Xfinity Center.
“I’ve done a lot of firsts here, but first time having a team being able to beat UConn,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who collected the 600th win of her coaching career in a 77-74 victory at Purdue on Thursday. “Definitely will remember win [No.] 601 because of this group.”
The victory was noteworthy for Maryland (9-3). In addition to ending that dubious streak against UConn, the program picked up its third upset of the season after stunning No. 7 Notre Dame, 74-72, on Dec. 1 and defeating No. 17 Baylor, 73-68, on Nov. 20 and its fifth win in its last six games.
Senior shooting guard Abby Meyers led Maryland with 20 points on 50% shooting from 3-point range (4 of 8), six rebounds and three assists. She scored 16 of her 18 first-half points in the second quarter when the Terps outscored the Huskies 28-17 and turned a 19-15 hole after the first quarter into a 43-36 advantage at halftime.
“I’m going to keep running wide and look for the open shot,” said the Princeton transfer, who has racked up a combined 39 points in games against Purdue and UConn after totaling just eight points against Notre Dame and Nebraska. “I just appreciate them looking for me. Glad I could knock those down. It was definitely a big run, and it felt good. It felt good to see the ball go through.”
They also got 19 points, six assists and four rebounds from sophomore shooting guard Shyanne Sellers, 17 points and six rebounds from senior shooting guard Diamond Miller and 13 points, four rebounds and four assists from senior forward Brinae Alexander off the bench.
After connecting on 10 3-pointers against Purdue, Maryland made 12 on Sunday — marking the first time the team has had back-to-back games of 10 or more 3-pointers.
“We talk about shot selection a lot,” Frese said. “As long as we’re shooting the ball with confidence like we’re doing currently, it’s a great thing — and it’s going in. Every game’s going to be different. So that’s where we’ve got to understand we can’t live and die by the 3 because there’s nights like Nebraska [in a 90-67 loss last Sunday] when it was off. We’ve got to be able to find other ways.”
UConn entered the game without five players. In addition to junior shooting guard Paige Bueckers (torn ACL in left knee) and freshman forward Ice Brady (dislocated patella in right knee), who were ruled out for the season in August and October, respectively, the Huskies were missing graduate student forward Dorka Juhasz, who missed her seventh consecutive game since breaking her left thumb, sophomore shooting guard Azzi Fudd, who hurt her knee against Notre Dame last Sunday and is expected three to six weeks, and junior point guard Nika Mühl, who suffered an apparent head injury during Thursday’s 69-64 victory over Princeton.
Even the Huskies who played weren’t quite 100% . Graduate student forward Lou Lopez Sénéchal labored through 28 minutes with a foot strain she suffered two weeks ago and contributed 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Maryland took advantage of the Huskies’ relative inexperience. With UConn turning the ball over 22 times, the Terps scored 21 points off of those miscues. By comparison, Maryland committed five turnovers that led to seven Huskies points.
In a 69-64 win against Princeton on Thursday night, UConn turned the ball over a season-worst 27 times. Geno Auriemma, who coached the Huskies despite the death of his mother Marsiella on Thursday, said the giveaways are bound to happen with an untested group of players filling unfamiliar roles on the floor.
“Now they’re being asked to be decision-makers,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a struggle when you’re in that situation. You can keep it together for a long time, but it’s asking a lot to keep it together for the entire 40 minutes.”
As depleted as UConn was, however, the team reminded Terps fans that it was still a dangerous group. Despite trailing 43-36 at halftime and by 12 points at 56-44 with 5:42 left in the third quarter, the Huskies used a 10-0 run over a 2:37 stretch to trail by just two and by just four with 34 seconds before Miller nailed a long 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Maryland an 83-76 advantage.
In addition to Lopez Sénéchal, UConn was paced by junior power forward Aaliyah Edwards (25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) and sophomore shooting guard Caroline Ducharme (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists). Freshman Inês Bettencourt, who made the first start of her career in place of Mühl, finished with two points, three rebounds, two assists and three turnovers.
While crediting Maryland for earning the victory, Auriemma expressed pride in his players.
“I think it was a gutsy and amazing performance by them,” he said. “It’s Connecticut. There’s no ‘atta girl’ for doing well and not coming back with a win. Except for the scoreboard, there were a lot of wins out there for us, and I’m happy for them, and I’m excited for how good we’re going to be in the future.”
But the Huskies (7-2) lost for the second time in their last three games, and several Terps players enjoyed the moment.
“I just think it’s really cool because this was my first time playing against UConn,” Miller said. “So I’m 1-0.”
“Me too,” Sellers chimed in.
“Well, I’ve played them three times and lost both times,” said Alexander, who transferred from Vanderbilt. “So I’m very happy we came out with the win.”
No. 20 Maryland at Purdue Fort Wayne
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 11 a.m.