GREENVILLE, S.C. — Shyanne Sellers just laughed. Had the game been closer, her reaction may have been different.
Maryland’s point guard was battling for a loose ball that bounced out of bounds. The referee signaled that Sellers had touched it last, giving possession to Notre Dame. But just four minutes remained in the Sweet 16 clash, and Sellers’ Terps led by 20 points. Maryland had the game in-hand, and Sellers knew it. Her play was a big reason why.
For the first time since 2015, Maryland’s women’s basketball team is going back to the Elite Eight. The No. 2 Terrapins stormed past No. 3 Notre Dame 76-59 on Saturday afternoon inside Bon Secours Wellness Arena in upstate South Carolina behind the stellar play of Sellers, who finished with 18 points and a game-high eight assists.
Maryland (28-6) — advancing to the Elite Eight for the 11th time in program history, and the seventh time under coach Brenda Frese — will face the winner of No. 1 South Carolina and No. 4 UCLA on Monday.
“Incredibly proud of this group,” Frese said. “And you continue just to see the unselfishness, the journey it’s been all season… This one is going to be one I’ll remember for a really long time.”
Sellers shot 5-of-11 from the floor and also had five rebounds and three steals to lead the Terps. Diamond Miller added 18 points, five boards, four steals and two blocks, while Abby Meyers chipped in 11 points and four steals. Off the bench, Lavender Briggs had 12 points.
“She’s just a winner. She wants to be great,” Frese said of Sellers. “Obviously between her and Diamond, they set that tone for us for our team to follow.”
Miller moved past Christy Winters Scott for 10th all-time in scoring in program history with 1,682 points.
Maryland forced Notre Dame (27-6) into a season-high 25 turnovers, and the Terps scored 22 points off those cough-ups by the Irish.
Notre Dame — playing without injured starters Olivia Miles and Dara Mabrey — was led by Sonia Citron’s 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. No other Irish player scored in double-digits.
“We talked about making them feel that pressure,” Sellers said. “Making them feel uncomfortable is what we try to do, and that’s exactly what we did. We knew they were a little bit on their heels without a point guard, so trying to make them really uncomfortable. And you saw that; we did that.”
The Terps grabbed the lead early in the third quarter, as Sellers scored the team’s first seven points of the period. And then, as two Notre Dame starters – Lauren Ebo and Kylee Watson – picked up their fourth fouls, Maryland broke off a 13-1 run to put a four-possession cushion between itself and the Irish.
Sellers scored all but two of her points in the second half and shot 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Maryland went on to lead by as much as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
But that large advantage for Maryland came after it trailed by as much as eight points in the second quarter, when Notre Dame played at its best. The Irish went on a 13-3 run as Maryland endured a scoring drought of nearly six minutes. The Terps had trouble breaking down the Irish’s zone defense in the half-court, and Maryland missed five shots during that stretch and had five turnovers.
Maryland ended Notre Dame’s run and began one of its own at the 3:36 mark in the second quarter when Meyers drained a corner 3-pointer. At halftime, Maryland was behind by a single point.
The Terps won despite losing the rebounding battle by eight and being outscored in the paint by 10. But Maryland made up for it by knocking down six 3-pointers, while holding Notre Dame to just two makes from behind the arc.
“I think we let Maryland speed us up, and we kind of just went rogue,” Citron said. “That’s on us. We didn’t really play with the discipline we should have, and we didn’t take care of the ball.”
Few thought Maryland would be here, advancing to the regional final, after they lost five of their top six scorers from last season’s team to either graduation or the transfer portal. Only Miller, Sellers, Faith Masonius and Emma Chardon returned, and Frese added nine new players to the mix.
For Miller, the decision to stay was a simple thought process. And it’s paid off.
“If I were to transfer, I would have played with a new group of girls; and if I stayed, I would have played with a new group of girls,” Miller said. “When you look at it like that, I was like, ‘I’m just going to stay and trust the process.’ And I’m so happy I did because I don’t know what school I would have committed to, but would we be at the Elite Eight now? I don’t know. But here we are.”
Mitchell Northam is a journalist based in North Carolina. His work has appeared in USA TODAY, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation, and he is the author of the book “High School Basketball on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: A Shore Hoops History.”