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4 Maryland Women’s Basketball took off for Spokane, Wash., for a Sweet 16 game with the defending national champions and the top-seeded Stanford Cardinals on March 25 at Spokane Arena. In a game filled with great players on both sides of the court, Stanford got off to a torrid start to secure a 72-66 victory over Maryland to stop the Terps’ run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Terps came out of the gates playing nervous and timid, which can’t happen against a team full of talent like Stanford.
The Cardinal’s rotation is deep and full of athletes who have demonstrated an ability to play consistently and perform at a high level. The Stanford trio of Haley Jones, Cameron Brink and Lexie Hull combined for 51 points, 27 rebounds and nine assists in the victory.
Although Maryland didn’t defeat Stanford, a team that’s now gone to the Final Four, head coach Brenda Frese’s team struggled in the second half. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese showcased his all-around skills with aggressive attacks to the basket and had an effective performance from the free throw line. The Baltimore native finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and 83% from the free throw line.
Reese has taken 26 of 31 free throws in the NCAA Tournament, after shooting 68% in the regular season.
The loss makes it two straight Sweet 16 losses for Maryland. Although the Terps did not advance, their effort never wavered, as evidenced by their 30 points in the final quarter.
Let’s take a look at the film of the loss of Maryland.
The Terps struggled to defend stealth cuts at the rim.
Stanford uses an offense with plenty of backdoor cuts, dribbling transfers and an exceptional ability to set solid screens. With 6:41 remaining in the first quarter, Stanford charged down the field in transition after securing a defensive rebound.
Stanford guard Haley Jones dribbled to the left and passed the ball to guard Anna Wilson. Wilson then took two hard dribbles to his left. Stanford forward Cameron Brink did a great job moving without the basketball in this situation.
Brink used a sudden scissor cut to the basket and beat Maryland graduate forward Chloe Bibby to a backdoor to the hoop. Wilson was then able to find Brink in stride for the easy lay-up. The layup gave Stanford the initial boost as they led after the first quarter, 22-10.
When you face a team with as much offensive movement as Stanford, you want to discipline with your eyes and your defensive alignment.
Wilson’s dribbling penetration caused Bibby to briefly lose touch with his mission, which led to the basket. Bibby probably would have been better off staying under Brink so that if Wilson made the pass she would be deflected or stolen by the Terps.
Then, with less than four minutes left in the second quarter, Stanford made Maryland pay again on a timely cut. Stanford’s Jones dribbled a left then ventured to his right, as Stanford guard Lexie Hull stood in the corner.
Hull noticed Jones dribbling in his direction, then cut to set up a cut backdoor down the baseline for a layup. She caught Jones’ pass in stride and evaded Maryland star Reese on a double-pump layup that extended Stanford’s lead to 29-19.
Maryland freshman guard Shyanne Sellers was defending Hull on the play and lost sight of Stanford’s guard for a split second. Vendors could have left more room to properly defend the passing lane and the ability to go through the backdoor for an easy bucket.
Stanford would get off to a good start with a 39-23 halftime lead with over 50% shooting from the field.
Stanford’s ability to move the ball on the floor was on display.
As the game progressed into the second half, Stanford used decisive ball movement and pitch vision to find an open look behind the arc.
In the third quarter as Maryland tried to get back into the game, Stanford led their offense in an attempt to get a high percentage shot on that possession again.
Stanford guard Lexie Hull found striker Francesca Belibi on the elbow, then Belibi grabbed the ball and immediately moved into a triple threat position. The junior found Hull in the corner for a wide open 3-pointer. Hull drained the 3-pointer to give Stanford a 16-point lead when it was a 44-28 advantage.
Hull entered the game firing on all cylinders as they recorded 36 points in the 91-65 win over Kansas in the Round of 16. .
With Hull burning from deep, Maryland needed to obstruct passing lanes as she is a constant threat to make defenders pay for defensive errors. Hull finished with just the lone 3-pointer, but finished with a team-high 19 points.
Stanford’s ball movement hurt Maryland throughout the game as he finished with 15 assists and 46% shooting from the floor.
Maryland is not a team ready to give up, no matter the situation of the game.
The Terps showed exceptional courage and a fight in the fourth quarter to position themselves to get back into the game. With just over five minutes left in the game, Maryland graduate goaltender Katie Benzan found Bibby. The Aussie made some hard dribbles towards the basket, forcing the defense to converge on her.
Bibby found Reese for the layup and she was fouled in the process.
Maryland is deadly when Bibby and Reese can reunite when the defense crumbles. Both talented players are extremely selfless and always looking to make the right play.
Stanford picked up the win and will head to the Final Four this weekend in Minneapolis, with the chance of winning back-to-back national titles if they can advance.
Maryland showed the ability to compete with Stanford, but a game-changing slow start was too much to overcome.
Frese’s team will lose two key starters in Benzan and Bibby next season, but will return several key contributors that will likely have them in contention once again in the NCAA Tournament next season.