COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Backed by the President and toting an unbeaten record, Princeton provided the women’s NCAA Tournament with a very good story line.
That book is now closed, courtesy of top-seeded Maryland.
Laurin Mincy scored 27 points, and the Terrapins used a second-half blitz to knock off Princeton 85-70 Monday night and advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.
After leading by only 42-38 at the break, Maryland used a 17-2 run immediately after halftime to turn a surprisingly tight game into a rout.
The Terrapins (32-2) will bring a 26-game winning streak into a matchup with Duke on Saturday in Spokane, Washington. Maryland and Duke were longtime rivals in the Atlantic Coast Conference before the Terps moved to the Big Ten this season.
President Barack Obama cheered for the Tigers (31-1) on Saturday in their tournament opener and picked the Ivy League champs to beat Maryland, in part because his niece plays at Princeton.
And the Terrapins? Well, the Big Ten champions were beginning to feel a bit overlooked in this second-round matchup.
“Coming in, playing an undefeated team, a team that Obama had picked over us, it gave us some added motivation to come in and make a statement,” Mincy said.
That didn’t come until the second half, after Maryland struggled through a lackluster opening 20 minutes.
After the teams exchanged baskets, Mincy scored in the lane and Jones sank two free throws. Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough then made successive baskets before Mincy drilled a 3-pointer. Field goals by Brown and Malina Howard completed the run, making it 59-40 with just under 14 minutes to play.
“I really felt like in that stretch we just wore them out,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Just really the physicality, the speed, getting up and down was the difference.”
Lexie Brown scored 23 for the Terrapins, who reached the Final Four last year.
Eighth-seeded Princeton was coming off the program’s first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament, on Saturday against Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Tigers hoped to make a statement against one of the nation’s elite teams, and for a half, they hung right in there.
In the second half, however, Maryland went 7 for 8 beyond the arc and shot a blistering 56 percent from the floor.
“They came out really fired up and they were making their shots,” Princeton forward Alex Wheatley said. “I mean, they shot 87.5 percent from 3 in the second half. If that’s what it takes to beat us, great.”
Blake Dietrick led Princeton with 26 points and Vanessa Smith added 15.
Princeton made 10 of its first 13 field-goal tries and led 28-24 on the Terrapins’ own floor before an enthusiastic crowd that clearly favored the home team.
Outscoring Maryland 28-6 in the paint while holding center Brionna Jones without a point in the first half, Princeton had several leads before falling behind at the break. Jones had 22 points and 12 rebounds Saturday against New Mexico State, but she was not a factor in this one until the second half.
Ultimately, Maryland proved to be too fast, too big and, most importantly, too talented.
“It’s an honor to play a team like Maryland, because they’re so consistently good,” coach Courtney Banghart said. “They can win in a variety of ways.”
Jones finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Mincy, in her final home game, went 9 for 11 from field, including 6 for 7 from beyond the arc.
Despite coming up short in this one, the Tigers proved they have big-time drawing power. Although Obama wasn’t here, this game attracted Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both of whom graduated from Princeton.
Princeton: The players on the greatest team in Princeton history walked off the court with their heads held high.
“What this team did was, they made history,” Banghart said. “All you want to do in your life — and I told them that — is to leave a legacy and to do something of impact. And there’s not anyone attached to this team that doesn’t think they did both of those things.”
Maryland: Mincy was sensational in her final home game, capping a season in which the Terps went 17-0 at home.
“She plays her best basketball in March, when the stakes are the highest. She wants the moment,” Frese said. “It’s only fitting to be able to send her out with a win.”
Princeton: The Tigers are 1-5 in the NCAA Tournament. … Princeton went 4 for 17 from beyond the arc after firing at a 40 percent clip during the regular season. … After trailing at halftime only once during the regular season, Princeton trailed at the break in both games in this tournament.
Maryland: Five Terrapins scored in double figures, including Walker-Kimbrough with 10 and Tierney Pfirman with 11. … This was only the second time the schools have met. Maryland won 76-52 in 2007.
Maryland: Seeking a berth in the Elite Eight for the third time in four years, the Terrapins face Duke on Saturday.
Princeton: Season over.
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