March 17, 2012
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Navy women's basketball team held fifth-ranked Maryland to its lowest point total of the season, but struggled to consistently convert on the offense end of the court in a 59-44 loss to the Terrapins Saturday afternoon in an opening round game of the NCAA Tournament that was played at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
The Midshipmen (18-14) were the Raleigh Region's 15th-seeded team, while the Terrapins (29-4), winners of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, were the No. 2 seed in the region.
Though the final result of today's game was a loss, the Midshipmen (18-14) represented themselves well in March Madness for the second year in a row. The only two times a Patriot League team has fallen in the NCAA Tournament by fewer than 21 points over the last two decades were Navy last year (a 56-43 defeat to DePaul) and today.
"I'm proud of a lot (of things)," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "I'm proud of our team's effort, for sure, the heart that they showed. Maryland was good, really good, and I know they didn't shoot the ball the way they typically do, but neither did we. A lot of respect for them, but so proud of our team. I liked how we rebounded and how we took care of the ball. We took more shots than they did, which is not typical for us, but we just couldn't get some shots to fall. I think that was the difference in the game."
Navy went toe-to-toe with the physically bigger Maryland team over the game's opening minutes. The Mids jumped out to an 8-4 lead and held a 13-11 advantage over the Terrapins when Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) picked up her second foul of the game. With Navy's most athletic player sidelined, Maryland went on a 20-10 run to take a 31-23 advantage at the break.
Maryland only attempted two more shots than Navy did in the first half, 31-29, despite holding a 27-14 advantage on the boards. The latter tally included an 8-1 edge in offensive caroms.
The Terrapins would quickly score the opening two field goals of the second half to expand its margin out to 12 points at 35-23. But a jumper from Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) and a three-point shot from Chloe Stapleton (Fr., Cary, N.C.) sliced the margin down to seven points at 37-30 with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Maryland would score the next six points of the game to take a 45-30 lead on its way to building a 57-36 advantage with 6:31 left on the clock. Navy would score eight of the final 10 points of the game.
"They got some transition shots at the start of the second half," said Pemper of Maryland. "It seemed for a while there we had a hard time guarding number 25 (Alyssa Thomas). They do a nice job of reading their screens and finding an opening. They can catch and finish, and just got some layups."
Navy ended the game attempting 59 shots while Maryland attempted 58 shots on the afternoon, but the Mids shot 30.5 percent from the field while the Terrapins converted on 37.9 percent of their shots. Navy especially struggled from outside of the three-point arc. Navy made six such long-range shots -- to Maryland's four -- but needed 25 attempts to do so. Additionally, the Mids were 1 of 12 from three-point range in the second half.
Maryland ended the game with a 46-33 advantage in rebounding, and was 11 of 14 from the free throw line. Navy attempted just two free throw attempts in the game, with Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) sinking both of her shots from the charity stripe that were attempted with 4:45 left in the game.
Navy held 30 of its 32 opponents this year to 59 or fewer points and did not allow a foe to score more than 64 points in any contest. Maryland's previous low point tally for a game was 63 points.
Geif connected on 7 of her 10 field goal attempts on the afternoon to tally a Navy-best 14 points. She also snared a Navy-high seven rebounds in the game.
"Maybe we could have gone inside to Jade earlier," said Pemper. "I liked what she did, but we shoot the `three' and that's part of what got us here. We sure shot it tonight but we didn't connect."
The game also ended the playing career for Navy senior team captain Erin Edwards (Hockessin, Del.). The future Navy pilot score five points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists in her final game.
"Erin has been great," said Pemper of her lone senior. "She and I have been the only two people in the program who have been here each of the last four years. She means a lot to me, she means a lot to our program. She is a great young woman. Erin is about the most low maintenance player who could have in a basketball program. I just really enjoy her. So selfless. She has the best attitude about everything."
"I'm jealous of where this team is headed and what they are capable of doing," said Edwards. "I know this sophomore class in particular, they have been winners since day one. Their will to win and their love for the game and each other is unbelievable. It is going to carry them places that Navy basketball has never been (before). The team has built that same attitude amongst themselves. I'm looking forward to seeing where they go, and I will be envious the whole time."
Maryland's Thomas led all players in the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Terrapins will play host to either Louisville or Michigan State Monday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.