With its most indispensable player on the bench wearing a cast covering her left wrist and forearm, the eighth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team absorbed a stunning 75-69 loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday night before 3,537 at Comcast Center.
Sophomore forward Alyssa Thomas could only watch the Terrapins lose their second straight, their first at home this season and for the first time to an unranked team in a listless performance from tip-off to final whistle. Thomas strained the thumb on her shooting hand during practice on Tuesday, and although the injury is not considered serious, last season’s ACC rookie of the year had the cast fitted for precautionary reasons.
The thinking was Maryland would be able to handle Virginia Tech, which it had beaten six straight times, with relative ease considering the Hokies arrived in College Park losers of five in a row, none by fewer than 13 points. The Terrapins instead head into a week off until their next game reeling from one of the more disheartening outcomes in Coach Brenda Frese’s tenure and with serious doubts about whether they can be a factor come late March.
“Our coaches can’t want it more for us than we want it for ourselves,” said senior center Lynetta Kizer, who led Maryland with 21 points and 10 rebounds. “Like Coach said, we’ve got to make a decision. This was a defining moment tonight. We’ve got to make a decision. We’ve got to turn it around from here.”
In the meantime, the Terrapins (18-3, 5-3 ACC) will have plenty of time to reflect on sophomore guard Monet Tellier’s 31 points, which included the go-ahead basket with 5 minutes 25 seconds remaining. Tellier matched a career high, and that running one-hander in the lane began a 6-0 flurry that had Maryland scrambling the rest of the way.
The Terrapins cut the deficit to 66-63 with 1:59 left on 1 of 2 foul shots from senior point guard Anjale Barrett. That made free throw ended a stretch in which the Terrapins had missed 6 of 9 from the line over 61 / 2 minutes when victory remained in reach.
Virginia Tech (7-14, 3-5), though, made its free throws down the stretch to seal an improbable triumph four nights after it lost to Miami by 31 points. The Hokies also got 15 points from Aerial Wilson and 14 from Porschia Hadley, who Coach Dennis Wolff said played the best game of her career.
The Hokies committed one turnover in the second half, seven for the game and outrebounded Maryland offensively 19-11. Their 44 points in the second half, which helped erase a three-point deficit at intermission, were more than they had scored in eight full games this season, including five of their previous six.
“To get to this point in the season and not to be beaten down and to keep trying is a credit to each of these kids,” said Wolff, who is in his first season.
It was the second consecutive game Maryland, which is third in the country in rebound margin, has been on the losing end in offensive rebounding, but at least on Sunday that came against fifth-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Maryland competed to the end in that 80-72 loss in part because it tied a season low with 10 turnovers.
The Terrapins had 20 against Virginia Tech.
“I think more disappointed,” Frese said of her emotions following an especially long talk with her players in the locker room. “I like coaching this team. I think this team has a lot of great parts to it. I think as young players, just understanding the big picture of things, so more disappointed of not understanding the big picture of what needs to take place.”