- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2015

Top-seeded Maryland didn’t enter Monday night’s NCAA tournament game against Princeton as an underdog, but in many ways, the Terrapins were overlooked.

The eighth-seeded Tigers brought an unbeaten record and national spotlight to College Park over the past few days. They drew the headlines. They enticed President Barack Obama, whose niece plays on the team, and two Supreme Court justices to attend games. Obama also picked Princeton to beat Maryland in his bracket.

When the game began, however, all eyes were on Maryland. Redshirt senior Laurin Mincy knocked down threes at will, Brionna Jones controlled the paint and the Terrapins ended Princeton’s unbeaten streak — and its season — with an 85-70 victory at Xfinity Center.

The win put Maryland into the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in seven seasons and provided a sense of validation for a Goliath that had adopted David’s mentality.

“Coming in, playing an undefeated team, the team that Obama had picked over us,” Mincy said with a grin, “it was a little added motivation to come in and make a statement.”

Mincy led the way with 27 points on 9-for-11 shooting and made six of seven shots from beyond the 3-point line. Sophomore guard Lexie Brown finished with 23 points, and Jones had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

In a shooting clinic, the Terrapins shot 53.4 percent from the field and 87.5 percent from 3-point range in the second half.

“We saved our best half, to be able to shoot the ball like that tonight,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I just thought we were really locked in, confident, focused, made some easy plays.”

The Tigers went 30-0 in the regular season, winning the Ivy League title in the process, but they were seeded eighth because of a poor history in the NCAA tournament and a perceived weakness of their conference. Their mission was to prove that they could hang with Maryland, one of the sport’s perennial power.

They succeeded in the first half. In the opening 12 minutes of the game, the Tigers shot 71 percent from the field and seized a slim lead.

“I definitely think they came out with a bite,” said Maryland’s Tierney Pfirman, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. “They were ready to play.”

The second half was a different story. The Terrapins came out of halftime with a 15-2 run, and the game was all but over from there. Jones bullied Princeton’s smaller defenders in the post, and the Tigers fell into a habit of taking tough, early shots.

“I wouldn’t take back one shot we took. Not one,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “It’s quite ironic that one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country goes 4-for-17 from three, and a team that relies so little on it and shoots more in the low-30 [percent] as a team goes 12-for-20.”

Frese said Princeton lived up to its billing and was far from a normal No. 8 seed.

“They were every [bit] as good as what they look like on film,” she said. “It was kind of a fun game, back and forth, because every time we went into a ball-screen type of defense, they would counter it with a set. We’d change our defense, until they could go counter it again. We’d change it back and forth.”

The Terrapins viewed the game as an opportunity to make a statement. Despite going undefeated in their first season in the Big Ten and earning a No. 1 seed, they were left out of the spotlight. So on Monday, they went on the court and grabbed it.

“I think they came out really fired up and they were making their shots,” Princeton senior Blake Dietrick said. “I mean, they shot 87.5 percent from three in the second half. So if that’s what it takes to beat us, great.”

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