TAMPA — In the aftermath of their first loss in more than four months, Maryland women’s basketball players sat in near silence in the locker room late Sunday night trying to absorb the reality that their season was over. The Terrapins had accomplished more than even they could have envisioned in October, yet it all hardly mattered in this moment that especially affected Laurin Mincy.
The fifth-year senior guard spent much of the second half on the bench watching her teammates futilely try to slice into Connecticut’s lead. When it reached 20 points following a knockout run, Maryland had nothing left to give on the way to an 81-58 decision in the NCAA tournament’s Final Four in front of 19,720 at Amalie Arena.
Mincy’s last game as a college player ended with just three points and six of the Terrapins’ 13 turnovers. The only senior on the team missed four of her five shots before Coach Brenda Frese benched her.
“It’s really difficult obviously,” Mincy said. “A lot of emotions are taking over me right now. It really hasn’t hit me yet that I won’t be putting on this jersey ever again. It’s just a lot. I don’t even know what to say.”
Still Frese made certain to mention the Terrapins (34-3) would not have come this far without their undisputed leader in the locker room and on the court. Mincy, who overcame a torn anterior cruciate ligament during her college career, inspired teammates to work that much harder and perhaps sacrifice a bit more knowing the travails she had to navigate in order to get back into the starting lineup.
Mincy was Maryland’s leading scorer this season (13.5 points per game) and had been averaging close to 18 through the first four games of the NCAA tournament.
“It was a tough night,” Frese said. “She was very anxious. I thought nerves got the best of her. When you look at six turnovers by Laurin Mincy, that’s not a stat line that you see this season, so it was tough. I mean because I could feel where she was in the game, and it was hurting the team, but she’s carried the team throughout this entire season.”
Redshirt junior Brene Moseley knows Mincy better than anyone, particularly because the two were recovering from the same injury at the same time. As a sophomore, Moseley was in line to become the starting point guard when she tore an ACL during a preseason scrimmage, and she almost always would be in the training room with Mincy during the many months of rehab after surgery.
Moseley was one of three Maryland players to score in double figures against the Huskies, who are seeking a 10th national championship to add to their NCAA-record haul. The first-team All-Met as a junior at Paint Branch High School finished with 12 points, shooting 4 for 11 in a game in which the Terrapins shot 32 percent overall in the second half.
A 14-0 flurry bridging the halves was the decisive blow that ended Maryland’s program-record 28-game winning streak. The Terrapins’ last loss prior to Connecticut came Dec. 3 to Notre Dame, 92-72, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Fighting Irish won Sunday’s other national semifinal, outlasting South Carolina, 66-65.
“I’m speechless when I talk about Laurin, everything she’s contributed along the years,” Moseley said. “When she first started, I was right beside her, and we created a bond then, so tonight was tough just because it’s the last game with her, so it hurts my heart. But I know she’s going to go on to bigger and better things, and we’re going to continue to keep doing what we’re doing here at Maryland.”
Moseley will be the most experienced player on the roster next season for the reigning Big Ten regular season and conference tournament champions. In addition to Moseley, starting forward Malina Howard will be part of a senior class that also has point guard Chloe Pavlech and forward Tierney Pfirman.
Three of the Terrapins’ top four scorers are back, including starting sophomore point guard Lexie Brown and sophomore guard-forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Front-court reinforcements are on the way as well, with Frese adding a pair of five-star recruits in Kiah Gillespie and Brianna Frazier.
“The next progression, it’s where obviously Notre Dame has gotten themselves to, and it’s the next step for us,” said Frese, who directed Maryland to its third Final Four berth in 10 years. “Obviously the consistency factor for us in terms of being able to get back-to-back, but there’s that one more percent in terms of where we need to go. But I’m excited when you talk about our future.”