COLLEGE PARK, Md. - For all that went off-script in the second half, Texas still had a chance to beat Maryland on the Terrapins’ home floor in the game’s final minute.
Chassidy Fussell, who wound up her career as a top 10 all-time scorer for the Longhorns, had a good look at a 3-pointer from the left wing with about 40 seconds left and Texas trailing by one. The ball rimmed out.
After a pair of Maryland free throws, Nekia Jones - who entered the game 20 for 40 from 3-point range this season - worked for an open 3 that would have tied the game. Again, no dice.
The fifth-seeded Longhorns fell to the fourth-seeded Terrapins 69-64 Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Maryland (26-6) moves on to face top seed Tennessee in the Louisville Regional, while Texas (22-12) is done after trying to win a second-round game for the first time since 2004.
“I would want those same players to take those same shots,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “In particular, the shot Chas got out of the timeout, it was exactly what we were looking for. The shot that ‘Kia got was a great shot. We didn’t have any more timeouts, so they improvised a little bit, and I thought that was a really good shot.”
The Longhorns were up against history at College Park - Maryland is now 18-3 in home games in the NCAA tournament - but they held three-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Alyssa Thomas scoreless in the first half. While that should have boded well for the visitors, Texas had to settle for a 31-31 tie because none of its top players could get untracked.
Thomas found her game after halftime and finished with 16 points, while the Longhorns’ boxscore makes for heavy reading. Fussell went 5 for 14, making just 2 of 7 3-pointers, and finished with 13 points.
Brady Sanders was 1 for 10 and committed four turnovers. Jones was 1 for 6 and missed all three of her 3s. Imani McGee-Stafford, who dominated in the first-round win over Penn, finished with six points and fouled out in the final minute. Nneka Enemkpali had nine points, 10 rebounds and three turnovers.
“In the second half, we got a little wound up,” Aston said, “and we started shooting too quick.”
It was left to Krystle Henderson, who scored a career-high 14 points, to make it close. With Texas trailing by nine and just over three minutes to play, the transfer guard hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one that banked in from the top of the key with the shot clock running down. Maryland’s 16th turnover then led to a fast-break layup by McGee-Stafford to make it a one-point game.
But Fussell and Jones missed the 3-pointers that would have completed the comeback. Thomas grabbed the last of her 11 rebounds after Jones misfired, then made a pair of free throws with 8 seconds left.
“We needed a stop, and I was able to secure the rebound,” Thomas said. “It was just a moment of relief to know we had this one in the bag.”
At least Texas is trending in the right direction. After going 12-18 last year, the Longhorns returned this season to win a first-round game for the first time since 2008.
“Our entire goal is to grow,” said Enemkpali, a freshman who was all-Big 12, “and to get this program back to where it needed to be. And I feel like we’re making steps towards that.”