GREENSBORO, N.C. — The eighth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team’s final appearance in the ACC tournament lasted but one game. The Terrapins were unable to overcome an unsightly first half that included turnovers and missed shots en masse, leaving them to chase futilely the rest of the way in a 73-70 loss to North Carolina on Friday night in the quarterfinals at Greensboro Coliseum.
The third-seeded Terrapins, who are headed to the Big Ten next season, absorbed their earliest exit from the ACC tournament since 2010-11, when they also lost in the quarterfinals. Trailing for all but several second, Maryland (24-6) also had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in 10 games.
“I thought obviously Carolina having a game under their belt, I thought they just came in really aggressive,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, whose team was the last to play its first game in this year’s tournament after securing a double bye. “We needed to get comfortable. Obviously new players when you have two freshmen in the [starting] lineup. I saw a lot of nerves from them, so we had to settle them down.”
Senior forward Alyssa Thomas had game highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds two days after being named ACC player of the year for the third straight time, joining Duke’s Alana Beard as the only two women to accomplish the feat. Thomas made a jumper to pull the Terrapins to 71-70 with 1 minute 35 seconds to play, but she lost control of the ball on an ensuing possession, and North Carolina took over on a jump-ball ruling.
Brittany Rountree made two foul shots for No. 6 seed North Carolina (24-8), which lost to the Terrapins in the regular season, 79-70, for the final margin before Thomas missed a three-pointer in the final seconds.
Maryland’s disappointing conclusion to its 37-year women’s basketball run in the ACC did include Thomas becoming school’s all-time scoring leader. The national player of the year candidate and two-time all-American passed Crystal Langhorne to move into first place with 11:19 left, pulling up for a jumper from the foul line on a fast break that cut the deficit to 52-45.
“It’s just a huge honor, but we didn’t come away with a win today, so it’s something I’m not really thinking about,” said Thomas, who had her historic evening marred with a game-high eight turnovers.
Playing before a crowd of 6,949, the Terrapins put an error-filled first half behind them with a 10-2 flurry after intermission. Three of those points came on senior center Alicia DeVaughn’s layup while getting fouled and the ensuing bonus free throw. Diamond DeShields (team-high 22 points) answered for North Carolina before Maryland ran off six straight, culminating with Lexie Brown’s driving layup after the freshman point guard beat her defender with a nifty first step to draw Maryland within 39-36 with 16:12 remaining.
The 13th-ranked Tar Heels pushed back with a 13-2 run that began when Allisha Gray (17 points, 10 rebounds) swished a three-pointer. The freshman guard, part of one of the most heralded recruiting classes in the country, collected a rebound and scored shortly thereafter, helping North Carolina had its largest lead, 52-38, with 12:37 to play.
But the Terrapins began to inch back over the final five minutes, starting when DeVaughn scored inside off an assist from Brown, and by the time Brown added a jumper and driving layup, Maryland was within 71-68 with 2:21 left.
Maryland opened the game trying to shake off sluggishness from five days since its final regular season game. The Terrapins did not score their first field goal until more than five minutes had expired in the first half, with Thomas’ fast-break layup ending the drought. From there Maryland used a 9-2 burst to take its only lead when Brown scored while drawing contact.
After the Tar Heels bumped the lead back to seven, Maryland got within 22-20 on a jumper from sophomore guard Brene Moseley and Thomas’ coast-to-coast layup. North Carolina countered with eight in a row that ended with DeShields’ foul line jumper for a 30-20 lead. The margin grew to 37-26 at halftime after Maryland committed 14 turnovers and missed 20 of 31 shots.
“I’m proud of the fact that we fought all the way to the buzzer,” Frese said. “This game obviously I thought was impacted in the first half in terms of how Carolina came at us really aggressive. We were back on our heels, and you spot a great team like Carolina 11 points, you’re fighting the entire second half to be able to come back.”
●DUKE 82, GEORGIA TECH 52: Elizabeth Williams had 15 points and five blocks for the Blue Devils (26-5), who beat their ACC rival for a 37th straight time.
●NOTRE DAME 83, FLORIDA STATE 57: Jewell Lloyd scored 17 points to lead the Fighting Irish in their first ACC tournament game. Kayla McBride added 13 points for Notre Dame (30-0).
●N.C. STATE 79, SYRACUSE 63: Markeisha Gatling scored a career-high 28 points before leaving in the second half with a knee injury, helping the Wolfpack (25-6) rally for the win.
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