Over the last four seasons, the Maryland women’s basketball team has been able to lean on Alyssa Thomas for baskets virtually at will. The senior forward has more points than anyone, male or female, in Terrapins history, so scoring has been second nature to the three-time ACC player of the year.
But during the first of half of Tuesday night’s gritty 69-64 victory over Texas in the NCAA tournament’s second round at Comcast Center, Thomas was misfiring, and fourth-seeded Maryland was laboring to score. That was until junior guard Laurin Mincy came off the bench to hit three consecutive shots, including back-to-back three-pointers, and reserve center Malina Howard added two field goals to help stake the Terrapins to a 22-16 advantage in a game in which the lead changed 13 times.
Mincy finished with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists, and Howard had nine points and three rebounds. Both players had been starters at different points in their careers but have thrived more recently as backups.
“It was poetic justice,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “Malina was a starter earlier in the season and then started coming off the bench. I just kept seeing that she never gave up. She continued to keep fighting in practice and just kept working. We always talk about as a staff to just be ready for your opportunity. I thought Malina and Laurin Mincy were ready for their opportunity tonight.”
Maryland in all got 29 points from its bench, and for a second straight game in the NCAA tournament, reserves left their stamp on the outcome. Terrapins backups scored 38 points in Saturday’s 90-52 victory over Army in the first round at Comcast Center.
Mincy also played lock-down defense on Black Knights two-time Patriot League player of the year Kelsey Minato. The sophomore had scored 49 points in a game this season and 31 twice but with Mincy guarding her in the first half managed just one field goal. What’s more, Mincy made a three-pointer with 7 minutes 52 seconds left in the first half that put Maryland ahead to stay.
Mincy had been a starter as a sophomore, when she finished as the team’s second leading scorer behind Thomas, but a torn ACL in the fall of her junior year derailed her season, and she decided to redshirt. Mincy since has been working her way back to full health and confidence as Frese has added talented freshmen, all of whom log significant minutes, but the McDonald’s all-American isn’t lamenting a lack of playing time.
“That’s the Lauren I know,” Thomas said. “That’s the person I’ve been playing with for four years. Just happy for her to get out there and do what she does.”