The hits continue to keep coming for the No. 6 UConn women’s basketball team, whether it is on the court or off it. On the sidelines, Nika Muhl, who left Thursday’s win against the Princeton Tigers after sustaining a head injury, went into concussion protocol prior to the game while Dorka Juhasz missed her seventh straight contest with a broken thumb. They joined Azzi Fudd, Paige Bueckers and Ice Brady on the injured list, leaving the team with just seven scholarship players.
Despite looking like the better team in most facets of the game, the Huskies were done in by turnovers as they committed 22 of them. Although just a small decrease from the 27 they had on Thursday, the 49 turnovers in their last two games are the most since a two-game stretch in December of 2002. The No. 20 Maryland Terrapins, who had just five of their own, capitalized on the mistakes by scoring 21 points off them as they won their first-ever game against UConn 85-78.
Given the circumstances, head coach Geno Auriemma was pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team and how we represented ourselves,” Auriemma said. “It was a gutsy, amazing performance.”
The Huskies had 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter of their win against Princeton, and the struggles continued in the opening frame as they committed seven of them. Four of those turnovers came in the first three minutes, but UConn slowed down the pace and took a comfortable lead behind an 8-0 run. At the same time, Maryland struggled to shoot, going 6-20 from the field as they could not get anything into the net.
But after burning a timeout and forcing Aubrey Griffin to turn the ball over twice, the Terrapins picked up steam in the final four minutes of the frame. With momentum on their side, Maryland’s offense woke up, going on an 8-0 run of their own in the second quarter and outscoring UConn 28-17. Led by Abby Meyers’ 16 points in the quarter and four threes, the Terrapins went from being down four to up seven heading into the intermission.
In almost similar fashion to the team’s loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on December 4, every time the Huskies cut into the deficit in the third quarter, Maryland had an answer. Their ability to respond to giving up a bucket allowed the Terrapins to extend their lead to double digits, but despite going up as much as 12, the lead was not safe.
22 seconds after Shyanne Sellers’ layup gave Maryland their largest lead of the night, Ayanna Patterson converted a jumper that made it a 10-point game. That 10-point contest turned into a 10-0 Husky run as the Terrapins missed numerous shots and Aaliyah Edwards continued to score in the paint.
UConn could not find a way to tie the game in the final 2:30 of the third quarter, but caught a spark in the fourth after entering it down four. Behind a layup from Caroline Ducharme and a jumper from Edwards, the Huskies tied the contest at 62 and had appeared to climb all the way back.
But the Terrapins went on a 5-0 run to recapture the lead almost instantly as Meyers slipped in a go-ahead layup in the paint and Sellers drained a three following an offensive rebound on the free throw. That turned into an 8-0 run as the Huskies committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions.
Basketball is a game of runs however, and UConn subsequently went on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit down to three. Jumpers from Miller and Lopez Senechal kept that margin the same until Sellers drew the foul after shooting a three-point shot.
After making all three free throws, Maryland’s defense stuffed Ducharme in the offensive zone and forced the Huskies to burn their final timeout. That defense could not answer Griffin scoring off the inbounds pass, but unfazed by the bucket, Alexander drained another three before both teams struggled to score for almost two minutes. There were two turnovers, a held ball call, Faith Masonius getting charged her fifth foul and numerous missed shots, but Edwards ended the scoring drought after coming up with the rebound.
Diamond Miller made it almost impossible for the Terrapins to need a game-winning buzzer-beater for the third time in four games as she made two free throws; with no room for error however, Lopez Senechal gave UConn one final chance to at least force overtime after making a three. After killing off most of the shot clock and failing to buy a three all game long, Miller nailed a dagger from downtown and made two last-minute free throws after retaining the inbounds possession to put the game to bed.
Five out of the Huskies’ seven players scored in double figures, led by Edwards’ career-high 25 points. After picking up three fouls in the first half Lopez Senechal scored 16 while Griffin had another double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Even in defeat, UConn shot 53% from the field, outrebounded Maryland 46-24 and outscored them in the paint 46-16.
On the flip side, an 18-point first half from Meyers led to her finishing with 20 while Sellers had 19 on seven field goals. After being shut out in the first quarter and held to two points in the first half, Miller finished with 17 on just four field goals. The Terrapins got the job done behind their stifling defense as they forced double-digit steals for the second straight game and had three blocks.
The Huskies (7-2, 1-0 Big East) return to the Nutmeg State on Sunday, December 18, where they will take on the Florida State Seminoles in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena before resuming conference play. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on ESPN.