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Pressure makes Diamond (Miller), and Terps benefit in win over Irish

Maryland guard Diamond Miller gestures toward the Notre Dame crowd after hitting the game-winning buzzer-beater against the Fighting Irish. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller squared up on the left side of the floor, took a hard look at her defender and dribbled two steps backward as the clock ticked down under five seconds with Maryland and Notre Dame deadlocked. She feinted right, made a crossover to the left, picked up a screen from Faith Masonius to create a bit of space and then pulled up — on one foot — and beat the Irish with a smooth fadeaway as the thundering crowd was stunned silent.

As if the 3,131 at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion needed to be told, Miller shuffled downcourt staring into the stands with her finger pressed over her lips, a further reminder for them to quiet down. After No. 20 Maryland handed No. 7 Notre Dame its first loss, 74-72, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the last word belonged to Miller.

I just wanted to take the last shot because I didn’t want them to get another possession,” Miller said. “Worse come to worse, we were going to overtime. But I just kind of got to my spot and shot it.”

The jumper capped a 13-point fourth quarter for Miller, who finished with a game-high 31 as Maryland (7-2) beat a top 10 on the road for the first time since 2016. The 6-foot-3 senior guard from Somerset, N.J., was a matchup nightmare all night for the Irish (6-1). She filled the box score with 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals.

“I really knew how important this win was for us. It’s a great motivation builder, knowing that we beat the No. 7 team in the country,” Miller added.

Miller helped the Terps recover from a five-point deficit in the final period. When Maryland called a timeout before its final possession with the game knotted at 72, Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese knew who would take the final shot for her team.

“At that point we knew that the ball was going to go to Diamond, and she had the hot hand,” said Frese, who notched career victory No. 599. “It was a set for us, and she executed it to perfection. That’s what your all-American, your senior, your fourth year in your program [is supposed to do]. I have so much trust in Diamond. She wants to make those plays. And it’s a big moment, and I love the fact that she knew time and score.”

Added Maryland guard Shyanne Sellers: “Even if you know it’s going to Diamond, you probably have like a less than 5 percent chance of stopping Diamond.”

After summer of self-reflection, Diamond Miller is ready to bounce back

Sellers, starting her third straight game, matcher her career high with 17 points and added five rebounds, two assists and two steals. She supplied much of Maryland’s early offense, scoring 10 of the team’s first 12 points.

“I was consciously looking to score,” Sellers said. “Knowing that that’s kind of a tough matchup for them. You have to honor Diamond. You have to honor Abby [Meyers] and stuff like that. So it kind of left them in a tough situation. So I just kind of came out looking to be aggressive.”

Maryland led by one at intermission, and the game stayed tight over the final 20 minutes. Brinae Alexander hit a pair of fourth-quarter three-pointers that put the Terps up 65-63 with 4:09 remaining. Miller pushed the lead to four with two free throws, but Notre Dame fought back and forced the tense final sequence.

Miller and Sellers were key to the Terps’ offense; the defense was a well-rounded group effort. Notre Dame began the night tied as the fifth-highest scoring team in the nation, but little came easy. And things were even tougher with Olivia Miles (14 points, seven assists) missing long stretches because of foul trouble. The Irish weren’t able to exploit their size advantage for much of the game and were outrebounded 41-37. Sonia Citron led Notre Dame with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s victory:

Shout out from KD

After the game was over, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant tweeted congratulations to Miller.

“Aye Diamond Miller, u a killer for that Dirk fade at the buzzer, good win Terps,” tweeted Durant, who led his own team over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, scoring 39 points.

“That was really, really cool, wow,” Miller said. “That is just something I have to process later. But the fact that he’s in the NBA and he supports women’s basketball is extremely huge. And we’re just going to keep growing the game, and people need to watch us because we all can ball and we all are talented. And just because we’re women doesn’t mean we’re less than any other man. So it was really good to see that.”

A grand for Briggs

Lavender Briggs’s second-quarter three-pointer put her over 1,000 points for her career. Briggs has struggled much of her first season playing for the Terps after averaging double figures in each of her three years at Florida, including 19.5 points as a sophomore.

She started the first six games of the season until she was moved to the bench. Briggs had a season-high 10 points against Pittsburgh on Sunday and followed that with eight points Wednesday.

Pinzan sits

Point guard Elisa Pinzan has started every game this season, but she was on the bench when the second half began. Briggs started that third quarter, and Pinzan didn’t check in until the 7:24 mark of the fourth quarter. Her 13 minutes were a season low.