The Tigers’ astonishing season came to a close on Monday night, as they fell to the No. 1 seeded Maryland Terrapins in College Park, Maryland. A close first half turned into a large second half lead for the Terps, and the Tigers would ultimately fall to the tune of 85-70.
The first half was a neck-and-neck affair, as the two teams would have two very different strengths in their offensive efforts. Princeton would hit the Terps hard down low, as junior guard Alex Wheatley scored six early points. Her efforts would be followed later in the half by sophomore guard Vanessa Smith and senior guard Blake Dietrick, both of whom would finish with 9 points at the half.
Maryland, on the other hand, would build their lead with outside shots. The Terps would be hitting threes early on to keep the Tigers at bay. Maryland’s Lexie Brown, Lauren Mincy and Tierney Pfirman were all instrumental in keeping their team hot from deep. A combination of both deep twos and threes would prevent the Tigers from breaking away with their inside advantage.
Indeed, the inside advantage was evident in more ways than scoring. The Tigers were incredibly solid in keeping the Terps from getting any second-chance shots. Cleaning the glass has been the Tigers’ specialty all season —they led the Ivy League in rebounds per game, and sported a monstrous rebounder in junior forward Annie Tarakchian. In the first half of this contest, however, the star rebounder would be junior guard Michelle Miller, who pulled down seven boards in the first half alone.
Perhaps the sequence that most defined these teams’ respective first halves was a layup by senior guard and captain Blake Dietrick followed by a long two by Maryland’s Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Each team appeared very specialized in the half, rather unusual since both the Tigers and the Terps were effective both inside and outside the paint all season.
The second half would feature a remarkable change from the closely fought battle of the first. After Wheatley and Mincy exchanged baskets to open the half, the Terps would go on a blazing run, scoring 15 unanswered points as the Tigers would not score for about 5 and a half minutes. Princeton had not trailed by double digits this entire season, and were suddenly faced with a 19 point deficit with just under 14 minutes to go.
What made the Terps’ run tough to stop was that they added to their hot outside shooting a strong inside game, punishing the Tigers with a combination of layups and long jumpers. While the Tigers’ offense was coming out flat-footed, Maryland had seemed to put it together and was poised to completely run away with this game.
However, as anyone who has watched this team would expect, the Tigers would not go down quietly. A small run sparked by the efforts of Dietrick would bring them within 13 points, down 49-62 with just under 12 minutes remaining. For about a five minute period, Dietrick would have all 9 of the Tigers’ points.
However, Maryland would come right back, as some timely offensive rebounds and more three point shots would push the lead out to 24 points, with only 7:35 to go in the game.
Again, the Tigers showed their mettle and would not allow the Terps a breakaway victory. They would go on a 10-0 run to bring the lead down to just 14 points. At this point, however, Maryland would begin to clamp its foot down on the Tigers. The Terps began to run the clock out, getting the rebounds they were missing out on in the first half as the Tigers’ time, and their season, began to fade away before their eyes.
Despite a last minute spurt sparked by Dietrick and Smith, the Tigers wouldn’t be able to bring the lead down to single digits late in the game, bowing out of the tournament with this loss.
The Tigers conclude their season with a record of 31-1 , marked by a perfect regular season and a win over the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay in the NCAA tournament.