COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Princeton's perfect season is over. A perfect ending is still in play for Maryland.
The first mid-major to enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten in nearly two decades and one of only seven schools to carry a perfect season through the first round of the tournament, Princeton played like much more than a No. 8 seed in Monday's second-round game at the Xfinity Center. But "more than a No. 8 seed" was still not equal to a No. 1 seed. Top-seeded Maryland was up to the challenge, and after a rollicking, back-and-forth first half in which both teams drained shot after shot en route to 80 combined points, the Big Ten champ pulled away for a 85-70 win.
Maryland's Laurin Mincy scored 27 points, one shy of her season high in her redshirt senior season, and added four rebounds and seven assists. Lexie Brown added 23 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Terrapins.
Playing her final college game, Ivy League player of the year Blake Dietrick led Princeton with 26 points.
While not perfect on the season, Maryland has now won 26 games in a row.
With more to come from College Park, a first look at how Maryland advanced.
Key stat: 12-4. That was Maryland's advantage from the 3-point line, an indication of both how well it shot the ball and how successful it was in depriving Princeton of one of the key assets in its arsenal. Not a particularly accurate team from long range to this point in the season, or a team that relied on the shot, the Terrapins connected on 12 of 20 attempts (in addition to a number of long 2-point shots a step inside the line).
Turning point: Some piece of the puzzle felt like it clicked into place on the final play of the first half. After trading the lead back and forth throughout the first 20 minutes, Maryland held a two-point lead and the ball. Princeton played good defense for most of the shot clock, but with time running out, Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough created some room with her dribble at the top of the key and drained a long jumper. Every time Princeton looked capable of pulling off the upset in the first half, Maryland seemed to answer with a jump shot.
Of course, what made that last shot look all the bigger in retrospect was the 15-2 run that Maryland used in the opening minutes of the second half to take control. Princeton had trailed for fewer than four minutes all season but spent the entire second half trying desperately to dig out of a hole. Mincy scored six points in the second-half run, but Brionna Jones, silent in the first half, also scored four points as Maryland finally put its size advantage to use.
Key player: Tierney Pfirman. Mincy was fantastic, knocking down shot after shot and handling a variety of defensive responsibilities, from chasing Blake Dietrick to bodying up Annie Tarakchian. She was the star. But Maryland talks often about how this team is the sum of all its parts, not just its most recognizable ones, and Pfirman lived up to that. Averaging just 4.9 points this season entering the game, Pfirman hit all five of her shots in a first half in which the teams traded baskets and finished with 11 points, mostly on the jump shots Maryland lived on much of the night.
How it was won: This is going to get complicated. Maryland hit a lot of shots. All right, maybe that wasn't so complicated. Look, the Terrapins did a lot of things right on both ends of the court, especially in taking care of the ball on the offensive end, but they shot 53 percent. Some of that was off the transition at which they excel. Some of that was in the paint, once they finally got Jones going in the second half. But most of it was on jump shots.
Good company: Princeton might have been unable to become the first Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16, but it did finish the season in some remarkable company. As mentioned, it is one of just seven schools to enter its second game of the tournament unbeaten. The others: Baylor, Connecticut, Louisiana Tech, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Texas. Those six represent some of the bluest blood in the women's game and account for more than half of the national championships ever won.
Famous fans: There was no White House representation in the stands Monday night, following the president's visit on Saturday, but another branch of the government was on hand. Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotamayor, both Princeton alums, were in the stands.
What's next: The Sweet 16 awaits in Spokane. This will be Maryland's 12th trip to the regional semifinals, its fourth in a row and seventh under Brenda Frese. Only 11 schools have been to the Sweet 16 more often. That list includes Duke, the team Maryland will face Friday in Spokane Arena in Washington and the team it won't have to scramble to scout. The Blue Devils are the last team to beat the Terrapins in a conference game, winning 84-63 in Durham last February before the latter moved to the Big Ten. The two schools more famously met in the 2006 national championship game in Boston, Frese's team winning in overtime for its first national title.