COLLEGE PARK – Point guard Destiny Slocum just threw the ball up.
After seeing teammate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough score on a 70-foot darting shot in Maryland’s victory over Indiana on Feb. 5, Slocum and other members of the University of Maryland women’s basketball team practiced similar shots for possible game-time situations.
Her chance came with less than three seconds remaining before halftime, after West Virginia cut Maryland’s lead to 11. The freshman received the inbounded pass and without a running start, launched a 75-foot, over-the-head, two-handed heave towards the basket. The shot swished into the hoop before the buzzer sounded, leaving the 6,129 fans at the Xfinity Center in awe as Slocum was ambushed by hugs and cheers from her teammates.
“Why not throw it up?” Slocum said. “That’s what was in my head. Just throw it up and see what happens.”
The destructive three-pointer capped off a fantastic second quarter for Slocum, who scored 21 points for the Lady Terrapins (32-2). The ladies then expanded their lead as high as 27 and had four players score in double-figures as they defeated West Virginia, 83-56 in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
“That’s (Slocum’s) range,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Part of me was surprised that she made it and part of me wasn’t. That’s just her range. She has the capability to do that and she didn’t even jump.”
Maryland’s victory earns the team a trip to the Sweet 16 on March 25 in Bridgeport, Conn., where it will take on Oregon.
In the first round of the tournament, seniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones combined for 58 points in Maryland’s 103-61 victory over Bucknell on March 18.
The nation’s top ranked offense struggled early in the first quarter as the Mountaineers’ defensive pressure limited Maryland to 5-for-18 shooting. West Virginia (24-11), winners of the Big 12 Tournament, focused on double-teaming center Brionna Jones and using senior Lanay Montgomery’s 6-foot-5 height advantage to swat shots and passes away from the paint.
The strategy worked until the final seconds of the first quarter, when Jones was left open under the hoop for a layup as time expired. The buzzer-beating bucket bred new life into Maryland after the rough first quarter.
After struggling to find their shot, the Lady Terrapins outscored West Virginia 26-8 in the second quarter, including going on an 11-0 run in the opening minutes. Slocum worked together with Walker-Kimbrough to improve the team’s ball movement and create more shots.
With less than six minutes remaining in the half, Slocum tossed a high pass over the towering Montgomery to Jones for two of her team-leading 22 points.
Maryland’s defense pressured the Mountaineers to take unnecessary shots and created turnovers. West Virginia finished with 18 turnovers and shot 31.7 percent from the field. It was the second straight game where Maryland forced double-digit turnovers.
“I think right now, all the pieces are coming together on defense,” Slocum said. “Our communication is better and everything is on-key.”
The past two weeks have generated extra attention for Maryland, both positive and controversial. After defeating Purdue 74-64 to win their third straight Big Ten Tournament championship, the Lady Terps were seeded third in the Bridgeport bracket with top-ranked Connecticut and second-seeded Duke.
The low seeding and being placed with UConn, whose current 108-game winning streak is the longest in Division I basketball, caused headlines on social media and throughout the sports world. Instead of feeding the team with the headlines, Head Coach Brenda Frese said the team dictates its approach, which has been “business-like” since the start of summer practices.
“For us, all year, it’s just been putting your head down and controlling what you can control,” Frese said. “You hear our players talk about it, so they live it. It’s not some kind of speech that we do. It’s about controlling what is out in front of you.”