Bridgeport, CT — After the Terrapins played UConn so close in their regular season matchup, basketball fans were excited at the possibility of seeing another matchup in the Elite 8 between the two teams. But Oregon played the part of the spoiler this afternoon, sending Maryland home with a 77-63 upset, and winning their own spot in the Bridgeport regional final on Monday.
What was billed earlier as a battle between two offensive powerhouses ended up looking more like a war of attrition. Maryland and Oregon both dealt with cold shooting and an abundance of turnovers early in the first half that led to a low scoring start to the game. In fact, it took over three minutes to get a point on the board for either team; Ruthy Hebard opened the scoring with a tough layup.
The Ducks seemed intent on working the ball inside, and through Hebard specifically, despite the fact they came into the game ranked fourth in three-point percentage nationally. The plan might have been to get Maryland’s Brionna Jones in foul trouble, but in reality, it just led to a few blocks for both Jones and fellow Terrapin forward Brianna Fraser.
Ironically, it was Maryland that was more effective in the post. Brionna Jones patrolled the glass, cleaning up Maryland miss after Maryland miss for second chance points. On the other end, Oregon found their scoring punch through the pick and roll. Sabrina Ionescu and Mallory McGwire worked the two-man game well, allowing McGwire to get a couple of open jumpers.
It was a high-risk, high-reward strategy during the second quarter, however, that either resulted in easy points or a turnover.
Despite a few early turnovers, the Ducks really took hold of the game in the second. Ionescu opened up the scoring with two three-pointers, the only long-range shots for either team the entire game. Maryland continued working the ball on the inside, doubling the Ducks in points in the paint, bu Ionescu’s timely threes helped Oregon take a nine-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Whatever Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said to her team during the intermission worked perfectly. The Terrapins come out with serious intensity. Guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored four early points capitalized with a great steal to cut the lead to 8, and Maryland’s press forced Oregon into turning the ball over.
But those turnovers apparently awoke the beast inside Lexi Bando. Oregon’s junior guard got hot from distance and hit two back-breaking threes in a row to push the Ducks’ lead back to double digits. Sabrina Ionescu got in on the action as well, and for a stretch, Oregon answered every Maryland basket with a three.
With four minutes left in the quarter, a quick steal and fast break layup took the lead to six, the smallest it had been since the second quarter. But on the ensuing possession, Lexi Bando drove past her defender and sent home a clutch pull-up jumper from the elbow at the end of the shot clock.
It was too little too late for Maryland; a hot shooting second half couldn’t bridge the gap that Oregon had built in the second quarter. Oregon punched a date on Monday with another potential upset, playing either the four seeded UCLA Bruins or the number one overall seed UConn.