The Maryland Terrapins staged an impressive comeback to beat the Texas A&M Aggies 81-74 to advance to the Sweet 16 today, but really they used two comebacks in the latter parts of each half to win the game.
In the first half, the Terrapins used a 21-6 run over the last 6:04 minutes before halftime to come back from down 18 points. Down 10 points in the second half, they used a 19-4 run over the final 9:21 of the game to win.
The way they made those runs might also hold insight into what they'll have to do to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Elite Eight.
Raleigh Bracket: #2 Maryland Terrapins vs. #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Maryland's rebounding was unquestionably going to be a factor in their game against the Texas A&M Aggies - their work in the paint both fueled their comeback and helped them wear down the defending national champions to the point where they seemingly lost their capacity to fight back down the stretch.
That 17.1% offensive rebounding percentage advantage that led to second chance points helped Maryland overcome their turnover deficit and that can't just be ignored as they look ahead to playing Notre Dame for a trip to the Final Four. But what might have been the even more significant factor was the play of freshman point guard Brene Moseley.
Moseley finished with 6 assists and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes (elite pure point rating of 7.14), which isn't her best performance of the year but represents the type of poise she brought to the court as a distributor off the bench. Moseley ended up with the majority of the minutes at lead ball handler as senior point guard Anjale Barrett only played 10 minutes and went scoreless with 2 turnovers and 1 assist. It's no coincidence that it was Moseley in the game when the Terrapins went on their first half run and went on to play big minutes in the second half.
Maryland's ability to beat Notre Dame might come down to that point guard play again, if not Moseley's play in particular. We already know that Notre Dame's defense is going to force guards into poor decisions and minimizing empty possessions will be even more essential against them than it was against Texas A&M - the Fighting Irish tend to be an efficient offense even in losses and are unlikely to just go cold for long stretches due to their balance offensively.
Ultimately, Maryland didn't actually play that well against Texas A&M; their rebounding dominance and zone defense just helped will them to a 40-10 advantage in that disjointed 15 minute span that overwhelmed the Aggies. When they can control the ball well and rebound as they did today, they're tough to beat.
Notre Dame struggled with Cal, a similarly rugged rebounding team, in the second round and this game could go similarly with Alyssa Thomas' being the player that puts them over the top. But the Irish will probably have a game plan ready to prevent this game from going similarly.
I won't change predictions now, but as with Maryland's game against Texas A&M their game against Notre Dame should be exciting and could go either way.
For more pre-Sweet 16 analysis of the other Elite Eight matchups, see our bracket previews:
#1 Baylor Lady Bears vs. #2 Tennessee Lady Vols
#1 UConn Huskies vs. #2 Kentucky Wildcats