Thirty-two seconds. That’s all it took for Maryland to force Holy Cross into its first turnover — a play that would turn into a pattern at Xfinity Center on Friday.
Maryland teammates and roommates Faith Masonius and Shyanne Sellers smiled and gave beauty-queen waves to the crowd after the final buzzer.
Patriot League champion Holy Cross was put on its heels immediately as the Terps swarmed defensively and pressed full court. The Crusaders could barely advance the ball across midcourt, let alone hold on to the ball. The turnovers piled up as Maryland jumped in passing lanes and blitzed a Holy Cross team that seemed unprepared for its length or defensive pressure.
“That’s the goal of our press, right?” Maryland guard Abby Meyers said. “Get their nerves up. Speed them up and get a 10-second call. It’s kind of like the bread and butter of our defense.”
Maryland forward Brinae Alexander added, “We pride ourselves on being aggressive, having the first punch in a game.”
The Terps (26-6) opened the game on a 14-0 run that included seven Holy Cross turnovers. The score could have been more lopsided, but Maryland missed several layups and short jumpers. By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the first quarter, Maryland had a 23-4 lead, and the four points were the second fewest the Terps have given up in a quarter this season. They allowed just two in the second quarter against Northwestern on Feb. 9.
Coach Brenda Frese said the coaching staff knew the Terps had a physical advantage over the Crusaders and wanted to start fast defensively.
“Our length and our athleticism, we were going to be able to kind of set that tone on the defensive end,” Frese said. “Just love the aggressiveness. And you could tell yesterday in practice that we were going to be ready to play.”
Holy Cross Coach Maureen Magarity agreed that Maryland’s length was a major issue and said her team needed more ball movement and held the ball too long when it needed to be reversed. The offense never found its flow.
“It was a tough beginning of the game,” Magarity said. “And Maryland just did a great job with their pressure. Which we had been preparing for. But it’s hard to prepare and simulate what they do.”
Five Terps scored in double figures, and all 10 who took the court scored. Meyers tallied 16 points to go with three steals and two blocks. Diamond Miller finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Sellers had 13 points, eight assists, two steals and a block. Alexander posted a game-high 18 points off the bench in her first NCAA tournament game after playing four years at Vanderbilt before transferring. Masonius had 10 points and three steals.
“I was really excited,” Alexander said. “Going in, it’s easy to have the jitters and the nerves, but once you see the ball go in, especially for me, that gives me a good boost of confidence. It’s a great feeling to be out here.”
The Terps shot 52.2 percent from the field, even with Frese emptying her bench with about seven minutes left in the game. Holy Cross finished with 24 turnovers, and Maryland scored 37 points off them.
Simone Foreman led Holy Cross with 13 points, and Mary-Elizabeth Donnelly chipped in 10 for the Crusaders (24-9).
“Their press and their pressure really got to us,” Holy Cross guard Addisyn Cross said. “Usually we’re not really used to seeing that and that type of athleticism. They really just sped us up, and that led to careless turnovers on our part.”
Maryland is now 21-4 in first-round games and 18-0 since Frese took control of the program. She will face her alma mater in an Arizona team that’s two years removed from playing in the national championship game. The Wildcats (22-9) start five seniors, four of whom average double-digit scoring, and the team finished tied for fourth in the Pac-12. Frese said the difficult Big Ten schedule has prepared Maryland to play a team such as Arizona. She also wondered about reunion plans her and her former teammates were making.
“We’re talking about doing a reunion in the offseason,” Frese said with a laugh. “So we have to see who they’re rooting for in this game.”