RALEIGH, N.C. — The Maryland women’s basketball team fell behind by double digits late in the first half on Sunday, but as the Terrapins have done time and again this season, they fought back, crafting an improbable 81-74 victory over third-seeded Texas A&M in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 at PNC Arena.
Playing in the region semifinals for the first time since 2009, the second-seeded Terrapins extended their winning streak to 10 and triumphed for the 13th time in 14 games.
Sophomore guard Laurin Mincy led Maryland with 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting and added a career-high 12 rebounds for her first career double-double, and sophomore forward Alyssa Thomas chipped in with 21 points and nine rebounds.
After ousting last season’s national champions, Maryland (31-4) advanced to its fourth region final in Coach Brenda Frese’s 10 seasons.
On Tuesday night, the Terrapins will play top-seeded Notre Dame, which dispatched fifth-seeded St. Bonaventure, 79-35, in Sunday’s other Raleigh Region semifinal.
“Just a lot of Maryland magic going on in this game,” Frese said. “For our team, we have had so many games that we have been battle-tested like today, but obviously not on a stage like this in the NCAA tournament. This team knows and has the confidence that we can come back against anyone.”
In erasing an 18-point first-half deficit, the Terrapins went ahead to stay, 75-74, on senior center Lynetta Kizer’s layup with 31 / 2 minutes left in regulation.
Mincy, who went 5 for 5 from the foul line and made both three-point attempts, followed with a fast-break layup off a pass from Thomas to make it 77-74, and Maryland was on its way to its second-biggest comeback of the season (the Terrapins erased a 20-point deficit on Jan. 6 to beat Georgia Tech at Comcast Center).
Kizer, voted the ACC’s sixth player of the year, finished with 15 points and six rebounds, all offensive boards, and junior forward Tianna Hawkins added 12 points and five rebounds before missing the final seven minutes following a hard fall in Maryland’s offensive end.
As is customary for Maryland, it owned the interior, holding an 18-5 margin in second-chance points and a 42-30 advantage in rebounding. The Terrapins also buckled down defensively in the second half with a 2-3 zone that limited Texas A&M to 35 percent shooting after intermission.
Maryland shot 48 percent, and although it committed 18 turnovers, only seven came in the second half. Texas A&M, meantime, had nine of its 14 turnovers come after halftime, including three in the final three minutes.
“I think when we were down 18, what was playing in my mind was I didn’t want this to be my last game,” said Kizer, who was an All-Met at Potomac (Va.) High. “That is honestly all I could keep thinking.”
The Terrapins trailed 38-20 with 7 minutes 10 seconds remaining in the first half but stormed back with a 21-6 flurry before the break. Then, on its first possession of the second half, Maryland got a basket from Thomas to pull to 44-43.
From there, the Aggies (24-11) scored eight in a row to keep Maryland at bay momentarily. The Terrapins rallied again, though, this time trimming the deficit to 70-65 with 8:12 to play on Thomas’s foul-line jumper.
After Texas A&M pushed the lead to seven on a layup from center Kelsey Bone, Maryland got four consecutive points from Kizer, and it could have been more (Kizer missed three foul shots during that stretch). But Maryland stayed within reach, limiting the Aggies to one field goal over the last 7:49.
“I thought we were going to be able to knock Maryland out of the game when we built those big leads,” Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair said. “We missed a lot of box-outs, and they made us pay for it. We had them on the ropes and couldn’t put them away.”
The Aggies had five players score in double figures, with Alexia Standish collecting a team-high 19 on 8-for-14 shooting. But the freshman point guard missed an open three-pointer with Texas A&M down 77-74, and on the Aggies’ next possession, she turned it over when freshman point guard Brene Moseley stole the ball.
Moseley quietly had a significant impact on the outcome, combining six assists and two steals against just two turnovers. The ACC all-freshman selection also contributed seven points and four rebounds.
“I think it speaks on how much we want it and how much we’re willing to fight,” said Moseley, an All-Met from Paint Branch. “We never gave up on each other, and even when we [were behind], we got back and recuperated, and we did it.”
●NOTRE DAME 79, ST. BONAVENTURE 35: Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and the Fighting Irish advanced to the Raleigh Region final by routing the fifth-seeded Bonnies (31-4).
Kalia Turner scored 14 points and Kayla McBride added 10 for top-seeded Notre Dame (33-3).