CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The eighth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team failed to protect a double-digit lead in the first half, then trailed by 11 late in the game before staging a frantic comeback that wasn’t enough to overcome an extended shooting lull in a 60-57 loss to No. 15 North Carolina on Thursday night at Carmichael Arena.
Despite missing 17 of 19 shots during one stretch in the second half and needing eight minutes to score their first field goal after the break, the Terrapins had two chances to tie in the final seconds. First, Katie Rutan’s three-point attempt was blocked by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, and another three-pointer from the junior guard hit the front of the rim as time expired to end Maryland’s six-game winning streak.
“Obviously a tough environment as always to come in here,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “Carolina did a tremendous job of taking us out of everything we wanted to do on the offensive end. It was a tough, physical game, but credit them in terms of how they defended and rebounded the basketball tonight.”
The Terrapins (10-3, 1-1 ACC) got 15 points and game highs of 16 rebounds, six assists and four steals from all-American Alyssa Thomas, who scored all nine of her second-half points in the closing 5 minutes 36 seconds. The ACC player of the year’s final field goal with 13 seconds left drew Maryland to 59-57, but North Carolina’s Krista Gross made the first of two foul shots, and the Tar Heels held on to win their seventh in a row.
Tianna Hawkins added a game-high 23 points for Maryland but was unusually inaccurate. Entering the game second in the nation in field goal percentage (64.7 percent) and second on the Terrapins from the line (88.2 percent), the senior forward missed 12 of 21 shots and 6 of 11 free throws.
Maryland made 9 of 17 free throws for its lowest percentage of the season and nearly 25 percent below its season average. The Terrapins also finished 32 percent from the field, another season low, and went 8 for 34 in the second half, including 0 for 8 from three-point range.
“Just us not coming out, not being focused,” said Thomas, who made a layup as time expired in last season’s game in Chapel Hill, N.C., to force overtime in a 78-72 victory. “The coaches prepared us for what they were going to do, jump out on us and pressure us, but we didn’t respond. We just kind of let them do what they wanted to do.”
Ruffin-Pratt, a senior who was a two-time All-Met Player of the Year at T.C. Williams, had a team-high 13 points for the Tar Heels as well as six rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard Brittany Roundtree also scored 13 points, and 6-foot-6 senior center Waltiea Rolle had 12 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 49 seconds to play.
At that point, North Carolina (14-1, 2-0) was in the bonus and went to the foul line three times in 34 seconds. The Tar Heels missed the front end of each attempt, allowing Maryland one opportunity after another to complete an improbable rally, but Terrapins freshman guard Chloe Pavlech had a shot roll off the rim and Thomas missed a follow of her offensive rebound during that span.
“I just feel like it was mental,” Hawkins said. “They were speeding things up, so we let it get in our heads a little bit. We just can’t allow that to happen.”