The fourth-seeded Maryland women’s basketball team began NCAA tournament play on Saturday with a 72-52 victory over No. 13 seed Quinnipiac, using the strength of a decisive run bridging the halves and another all-American-caliber performance from Alyssa Thomas.
The junior forward scored a game-high 29 points and added 13 rebounds and five assists to lead an overpowering front court for the Terrapins, who for the first time this season had four players reach double-figure rebounds. Senior forward Tianna Hawkins contributed 23 points and 13 rebounds, and junior center Alicia DeVaughn chipped in eight points and a career-high 17 rebounds in Maryland’s first game since March 9.
“I thought we looked like we hadn’t played in about two weeks,” said Coach Brenda Frese, who has never lost in the first round in nine appearances in the NCAA tournament at Maryland. “Rusty, a little bit sluggish from the tip, but once we were able I thought to get our rebounding and our transition to really start clicking, that was the difference.”
In advancing to a second-round Bridgeport Region matchup with fifth-seeded Michigan State on Monday, Maryland used a 21-2 flurry culminating in two Hawkins foul shots with 13 minutes 30 seconds left in regulation for a 41-26 lead. The Terrapins twice trailed by nine in the first half before gaining separation from the Northeast Conference tournament champions, who were making their first NCAA tournament appearance.
With her team trailing 21-12, Thomas got Maryland (25-7) going with a layup, and DeVaughn’s layup drew the Terrapins within five points with 5 minutes 49 seconds left until halftime. Hawkins collected an offensive rebound and scored on the putback, and the ACC’s leading scorer during the regular season swished a three-pointer 36 seconds later to tie the score.
Jasmine Martin’s layup briefly reclaimed the lead for Quinnipiac (30-3), but Thomas scored on a layup and made a jumper before assisting on Katie Rutan’s basket to end the first half. The Terrapins then came out of intermission by scoring six consecutive points, and after Lisa Lebak sank a three-pointer for the Bobcats, Thomas and Hawkins each made 4 of 4 from the foul line.
“Just in general, I don’t think they’ve seen a team like us,” said Thomas, the two-time ACC player of the year. “Just a team that really rebounds and is able to run. They found it really hard to match up with all of us.”
Maryland limited Quinnipiac to 23 percent shooting, including 8 of 42 in the second half, and owned a 59-41 margin in rebounding and 46-14 in points in the paint. After making four early three-pointers, the Bobcats missed 17 of 21 from beyond the arc the rest of the way and had only Felicia Barron score in double figures. The senior guard needed 18 shots to finish with 13 points and missed her first 12 field goal attempts.
The Terrapins were able to overcome 25 turnovers, their second-highest total this season, and 2-of-13 shooting from three-point range thanks in part to a second half that included 46 percent shooting overall and a renewed commitment to rebounding. Maryland had 18 more rebounds following the break, although the teams finished tied in offensive rebounding for the game.
“Being on the floor with talent like that, it’s really humbling,” Quinnipiac junior forward Brittany McQuain said. “We did extremely well in the NEC, not losing a game. Coming here and playing against a really good ACC team really kind of opened our eyes a little bit.”
Michigan State, meantime, survived against No. 12 seed Marist, 55-47, by withstanding a second-half comeback. The Spartans (25-8) got a game-high 16 points from sophomore guard Kiana Johnson, who made 4 of 7 three-pointers, and junior forward Annalise Pickrel added 14 points — making 4 of 8 from beyond the arc — and five rebounds.
Casey Dulin scored a team-high 13 points for the Red Foxes (26-7), who erased a nine-point deficit at halftime to lead, 33-31, with 13:46 to play. But Michigan State, which lost to Louisville in the first round last season in College Park, went on an 18-9 run to reclaim the lead for good.