Arms behind her head, Destiny Slocum catapulted the basketball nearly three-fourths the length of the court Saturday. The attempt at a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter was almost an exact replica of her 70-foot shot that went in against West Virginia a week ago in the NCAA Tournament.
This time, the shot fell short, and so did Maryland’s bid to continue in the tournament. Slocum and the Terrapins ran into a defensively sound, scrappy and hot-shooting Oregon team in the Sweet Sixteen at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, falling 77-63.
“It was really a blessing,” the Mountain View High graduate said of her first NCAA Tournament experience. “Even being able to play in three rounds of it and making it to the Sweet Sixteen, something I’ve never done before being a freshman, and being able to do it with this group, I wish we could have gone farther for our seniors and the program, but we got to keep working.”
From a statistic standpoint, Saturday’s game wasn’t the best showing for the freshman point guard from Meridian. Slocum finished with an uncharacteristic five turnovers and had just three assists, three short of six per game she averages. She added nine points and one rebound in 38 minutes.
In the first and second quarters, the 10th-seeded Ducks (23-13) threw an aggressive style of defense at No. 3 Maryland (32-3) that included a double team of Slocum at times.
“I think their defense, just the way they were communicating, they were clicking on all cylinders,” Slocum said. “I think when your defense is on, your offense is really on. So everything was just really clicking for them. It’s kind of tough to stop a team when they are on, on all cylinders.”
As difficult as Oregon made it on Slocum, who had just two points in the first 20 points, it didn’t seem to faze her. The two-time Idaho Statesman All-Idaho 5A Player of the Year started the third quarter with a smile, trying to keep things positive.
Known for her endless amounts of energy, Slocum made back-to-back baskets with 5:26 left in the third to bring Maryland within 40-37. But as the game went, Oregon always seemed to always have an answer.
Guards Lexi Bando and Sabrina Ionescu hit huge shots down the stretch, as the two combined for six 3-pointers. Ionescu finished with a game-high 21 points.
“They were just playing a good game on both ends of the floor, and they were just being an overall better team tonight,” Slocum said. “We are an amazing team, and we had so much talent, I just wish we could have showed people a little more.”
In her first season at the collegiate level, Slocum showed a lot. There are plenty of SportsCenter-worthy highlights in the 35-game season. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and led the conference in assists with 7.5 per game. She started every game.
In the final seconds Saturday, Slocum dribbled out the clock, an emotional moment, as it signified the end for standout seniors Brionna Jones (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (16 points).
Talking about the two after the game, Slocum teared up.
“I mean, just how much they love the game and they are willing to teach us,” Slocum said of what she’s taken away from their leadership. “That’s one thing I hope when I become an upperclassman that I can look down at the underclassmen and they respect what I say.”
“My team,” she said of what she enjoyed most. “I enjoyed everyone on this team, so that was always exciting.”
The Maryland offense, which averages more than 90 points a game to lead the nation, was held to its lowest point total this season.