The Maryland women’s basketball team had racked up a decade’s worth of losses to Connecticut. But on Sunday, the Terrapins ended their losing streak against the sport’s most storied program by encountering the Huskies at just the right time.
Before a lively crowd of more than 12,500 at XFINITY Center, the No. 20 Terrapins recorded an 85-78 win over a No. 6 Huskies squad that was severely depleted by injuries. The victory was Maryland’s first ever in eight meetings against Connecticut, a head-to-head series that dates back to 2012.
“Just a really incredible, special win, like I told them in the locker room,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I’ve done a lot of firsts here, but first time being able to have a team beat UConn — definitely will remember [career] win 601 because of this group.”
Both teams played only seven players, but Connecticut was particularly limited. A host of stars — including Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd, Nika Muhl and Dorka Juhasz — sat out with injuries, shortening the Huskies’ bench to the point where coach Geno Auriemma substituted only once in the first half.
Still, Connecticut rallied to tie the score early in the fourth quarter before an 8-0 Terps run put them ahead for good.
“We just couldn’t sustain it for the entire 40 minutes,” Auriemma said. “As the game wore on, you know, I think we got a little bit worn down, but more mentally than physically. … We made a lot of mental errors late there in the game.”
The Terps have leaned heavily on senior guard Diamond Miller to carry them against their stiffest competition this season. The Huskies held Miller without a field goal until early in the third quarter Sunday, but Maryland was buoyed by double-figure scoring contributions from senior guard Abby Meyers, sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers and senior guard Brinae Alexander. All seven Terps who appeared in Sunday’s game scored.
With final exams scheduled to begin this week, Maryland’s next game is not until Dec. 21 at Purdue Fort Wayne, when the Terps will face Sellers’ sister, Shayla.
Here’s three other things to know about Maryland’s win:
1. Meyers breaks through
After emerging early in the season as one of Maryland’s most consistent scorers, Meyers had endured a difficult stretch of late, combining for eight points on 4-of-17 shooting in two games earlier this month against Notre Dame and Nebraska. The Terps’ subsequent Dec. 8 victory over Purdue was the first time since 2020 that Meyers wasn’t in the starting lineup (she transferred from Princeton during the offseason.)
But the senior guard broke out of her brief slump in a big way Sunday, electrifying the crowd with a 16-point second quarter in which she shot 4-of-4 from 3-point range and helped Maryland carry a seven-point lead into halftime.
Meyers played all 40 minutes for the Terps, tallying team-highs of 20 points and six rebounds. Postgame, Frese said she told her, “Yeah, no” when she requested a rest early in the second quarter.
“Whatever is needed for me, whether it’s all 40 or no 40, I’m just gonna play and try and do my thing,” Meyers said. “But yeah, I definitely was feeling the cramps in the calves near the end a bit.”
2. Frese tightens the rotation
In each of the team’s last four games, Maryland has almost entirely featured a seven-player rotation, with Frese leaning heavily on collegiate veterans like Alexander and senior guard Lavender Briggs to take on the bulk of the bench minutes.
Against Connecticut, Maryland did not play either of its two available freshmen, guards Gia Cooke and Bri McDaniel. As the Terps have battled through a challenging schedule, the first-year group also played limited minutes in wins over No. 17 Baylor on Nov. 20 and No. 7 Notre Dame on Dec. 1.
“The thing that’s tougher for the freshmen is the schedule doesn’t lend to a lot of games where we can learn,” Frese said prior to the Nebraska game on Dec. 4, “so as I’ve explained to them, their practices right now are their games.”
3. Fudd sits out in her return to the DMV
Sunday was supposed to mark a homecoming for Fudd, the Arlington, Virginia, native and former standout at Washington, D.C.’s St. John’s College High School. Connecticut’s sophomore guard was in the midst of a breakout season that vaulted her into the player of the year conversation, averaging 24.0 points on 54.4% shooting and 43.5% on threes through her first six games.
But the 2021 McDonald’s All-American injured her right knee during Connecticut’s loss to Notre Dame on Dec. 4 and was sidelined ahead of her first game against the Terps. In all, she is expected to miss three to six weeks.
Long before she committed to Connecticut and became one of the faces of women’s college basketball, Fudd was pursued by Frese, who hoped to keep the local star close to home.
“We were her first offer in sixth grade, and, you know, she broke my heart, was up here a ton,” Frese said before Sunday’s game.
“It’s sad [she sat out] because she’s having just a phenomenal year, and it’s a 20-point scorer that goes out of their lineup.”
Sapna Bansil is a pediatric occupational therapist turned journalist who is enrolled in the graduate program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.