Nearly 11 minutes had elapsed in Maryland’s NCAA tournament opener Sunday afternoon, and Coach Brenda Frese had seen enough. The Terrapins opened with an uneven showing, and the result was a three-point deficit to visiting Army, so Frese called a timeout.
Fourth-seeded Maryland emerged reenergized. It reeled off 20 unanswered points to close the first half with a decisive surge that secured a 90-52 victory in the Terrapins’ first game in more than two weeks.
Point guard Lexie Brown led Maryland (25-6) with a team-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting . The ACC all-freshman selection also went 3 for 4 from three-point range and added five assists.
It was the fifth win in six games and ninth in 11 for Maryland, which will host Texas on Tuesday night for a spot in the Louisville Region round of 16.
The fifth-seeded Longhorns bounced back from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 12 Pennsylvania, 79-61, in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Comcast Center.
For Maryland, senior forward Alyssa Thomas had 13 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and four assists , and senior guard Katie Rutan scored all of her 11 points in the second half, going 3 for 3 from three-point range.
Already the leading scorer in Maryland women’s history, Thomas passed Juan Dixon for the most points by a basketball player — man or woman — in school history. She left the game early in the second half with 2,282 in her career.
“I thought after we got the jitters out to start the game and both teams were really fired up, I thought we were really able to show what separates us and makes us special,” Frese said. “I thought our defense and our rebounding really led to transition. We were really able to use our depth today. We really shared the basketball. We made really easy plays and were having a lot of fun.”
Playing for the first time since losing to North Carolina in the ACC tournament quarterfinals March 7, Maryland had a 29-2 outburst over the last 9 minutes 11 seconds before the break that had its 13th-seeded opponent out of sorts the rest of the way.
The Terrapins, meanwhile, were operating crisply. They scored on fast breaks and kick-out three-pointers and overpowered the Patriot League champions with offensive rebounding and second-chance points.
The Black Knights (25-8) went without a field goal for the rest of the first half after Frese's timeout — they missed 10 shots — as Maryland locked in on two-time Patriot League player of the year Kelsey Minato. The sophomore had scored 49 points and 31 twice earlier this season, but after she made a pair of three-pointers Sunday, Frese inserted junior guard Laurin Mincy, and the team’s most reliable on-ball defender went to work.
Mincy limited Minato to one field goal while guarding her in the first half and sank a three-pointer from the left baseline with 7:52 left until intermission that put the Terrapins ahead to stay at 20-18. Sophomore forward Tierney Pfirman (10 points, eight rebounds) followed with a midrange jumper off an assist from Mincy, and Thomas made two foul shots for a 24-18 buffer.
Minato (game-high 27 points) made 1 of 2 foul shots,and Aimee Oertner did the same for Army, but the Terrapins’ onslaught continued with Thomas’s jumper, two foul shots from Mincy and two more from Thomas for a 30-20 lead. Brown added a jumper and three-pointer, compelling Black Knights Coach Dave Magarity to call a timeout.
But Brown swished another three-pointer, and by the time freshman Brionna Jones made a pair of free throws, Maryland had expanded the margin to 40-20 with 1:16 to play until halftime.
“It’s like we woke up a beast,” said Minato, who scored 18 in the second half when the outcome was all but decided.
Maryland claimed its second win in three seasons against a service academy in the NCAA tournament. In 2011-12, the Terrapins beat Navy, 59-44, in the first round at Comcast Center.
The Terrapins also won in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in Frese’s 12 seasons in College Park. Maryland advanced to the round of 16 in each of the last two seasons, including reaching a region final in 2011-12.
“It was a lot of fun,” Brown said. “Like I said yesterday, it was a lot easier that we got to play at home. We had two great weeks of practices. We were a little nervous because of the stage, but when we get rolling, we’re hard to stop.”
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