- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2019

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Brenda Frese and her players could only glide through the handshake line in disbelief and leave the court.

Watching a visiting team celebrate a big tournament win in their home arena, on the Maryland “M” at center court, was not an option.

The third-seeded Maryland Terrapins’ season ended Monday at the Xfinity Center with an 85-80 loss to the No. 6 UCLA Bruins in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

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After a season that saw them crowned Big Ten regular-season champions and ranked as high as No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, the Terrapins (29-5) lost in the second round of the NCAAs for the second year in a row, the first time that’s happened since 2004 and 2005.

With a minute to go, Kennedy Burke drained a deep jumper to put the Bruins up 81-78, and Kaila Charles only made one of two free throws on Maryland’s next possession. In such a tightly contested game, it ultimately did the Terrapins in.

Charles led Maryland with 23 points, freshman Shakira Austin added 15 and Stephanie Jones scored all 15 of her points in the first half.

UCLA forward Michaela Onyenwere put up 30 points to lead all scorers. Japreece Dean added 22 points and Burke had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bruins advance to the Sweet 16, where they will take on the No. 2 seed Connecticut Huskies in the Albany, New York, region.

For Maryland, meanwhile, it’s a second straight year with a premature conclusion.

“We can’t come out slow, especially not in the tournament in March,” Charles said. “Teams are gonna be playing their best basketball because they don’t want to end their season.”

From the 3-point arc, Maryland had its worst performance of the seasons, going 1-for-13 after averaging .366 percent before Monday. And although UCLA only finished ahead in rebounding 47-43, that included a 28-18 advantage in the first half that cost the Terrapins.

“I thought UCLA was tremendous in the first half,” Frese said. “I thought it took us a while, especially on the glass, to be able to get settled in.”

Jones dropped 13 points in the first quarter alone, on 6-for-6 shooting, but Burke put up 11 for the Bruins to power them to a 26-20 lead after one.

Early in the second quarter, one sequence illustrated exactly what plagued Maryland most of the game. Onyenwere missed three straight shots from the paint, yet UCLA managed to keep each rebound away from the Terrapins. After the third miss, the Bruins reset, wrapped it around the arc and created a 3-pointer for Onyenwere.

By halftime, the Bruins had 17 offensive rebounds and led 44-40. But that deficit was hardly out of the Terrapins’ reach, and they erased it in one burst to open the second half.

Maryland scored seven points in 50 seconds to take its first meaningful lead of the game, electrifying the home crowd in the process. Austin grabbed steals on UCLA’s first two possessions and Kaila Charles scored in transition each time.

“I have a difficult time if we’re not playing with confidence, because we can control that,” Frese said. “I think that was more the message (at halftime). I thought we could just play with a lot more toughness, a lot more poise and a lot more energy.”

Maryland’s work on the board improved the slightest bit as it traded baskets with UCLA for much of the third. Charles scored 15 points in this quarter alone on 6-for-9 from the field.

The Terrapins went up 71-66 after the third, with Channise Lewis punctuating the quarter with a steal, drive and layup to beat the buzzer.

UCLA tied the game at 76 with four minutes to go with a play on the baseline, and on the Terrapins’ next possession Charles was called for a charge. The Bruins went back to the baseline, where Lindsey Corsaro scored and drew a foul.

That five-point swing put Maryland back in the hole it had dug out of. The details went askew again — a pass flew out of bounds, an easy defensive rebound fell to the Bruins instead.

The Terrapins also finished 15-for-25 from the free throw line. UCLA made 20 of its 21 free throws.

Looking ahead to next season, Maryland will lose just one senior to graduation in forward Brianna Fraser.

“We have nine of us coming back next year, so we’re gonna use this as motivation in the (offseason) to get better and hopefully have a better season and go as far as we can,” Charles said.

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