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Tennessee denied 1st Final Four bid since 2008 after falling to Maryland 58-48

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SPOKANE, Washington — The entirety of what this season had been about for Ariel Massengale hit as she dropped to her knees while Maryland celebrated around her.

No trip to Tampa, Florida. No getting Tennessee back to the Final Four. No title for the final group of Lady Vols to have played for Pat Summitt.

"Cierra (Budrick), (Isabelle Harrison) and I wanted to take this team back to the Final Four. And end this drought for this program, for ourselves, for Pat," Massengale said. "We wanted it more than anything in the world. We felt we had a really good chance and just not being able to accomplish your ultimate goal, it hurts."

Lexie Brown scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, and Tennessee was held to one field goal over the final 5 minutes as top-seeded Maryland advanced to the Final Four with a 58-48 win over the Lady Vols in the Spokane Regional final on Monday.

Tennessee (30-6) was knocked out of the NCAAs by Maryland for the second straight year and continued the Final Four drought for the Lady Vols program that is now at seven years.

Tennessee's focus all season had been on getting back to the Final Four, which just so happened to be in Tampa this season, the site of the Lady Vols' most recent Final Four appearance and most recent national title.

That task became far more difficult when Harrison, their leading scorer, was lost for the season to a knee injury in February.

Tennessee showed resiliency in the aftermath of Harrison's injury and again in the Sweet 16, rallying from 17 down with less than 7 minutes remaining to beat hometown Gonzaga in overtime.

But the Lady Vols' run ended against the Terrapins.

Massengale led Tennessee with 16 points, but the energy needed to rally against Gonzaga and try to slow down the Terrapins caught up with the Lady Vols in the closing minutes.

Tennessee missed 10 of its final 11 shots and no other player scored in double figures. Brown's 3-pointer with 7:45 left pulled the Terrapins even at 44 and started a 17-4 run to finish off the victory.

PHOTO: Tennessee's Alexa Middleton (33) and Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, left,  go after a loose ball during the second half of a women's college basketball regional final game in the NCAA tournament, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. Maryland won 58-48. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Tennessee's Alexa Middleton (33) and Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, left, go after a loose ball during the second half of a women's college basketball regional final game in the NCAA tournament, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. Maryland won 58-48. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

"That's what great guards do. When they needed to, they hit big baskets," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.

"I think we wore down a little bit. ... I thought we did a great job at the beginning, but I think toward the end of the game we were giving too many open looks, too many inside touches. So, yeah, I think we kind of wore down a little bit."

Tennessee was also unable to get to the free throw line, the place that capped the Lady Vols' rally to knock out Gonzaga. After going 21 of 22 at the line — and 10-for-10 in overtime — against Gonzaga, the Lady Vols missed their one free throw attempt in 40 minutes. It came less than 2 minutes into the game.

"We threw the ball inside, we penetrated, we did everything we could do except go to the free throw line," Warlick said.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 12 points for the Terrapins, who won their 28th straight game.

It's the fifth Final Four appearance for the Terrapins and third under coach Brenda Frese. Next up for the Terrapins: Connecticut in the national semifinals. The Terrapins lost to Notre Dame in last year's national semis.

No one proved more valuable than Brown, the sophomore point guard that spent much of the regional semifinal victory over Duke on the bench after missing all seven shots and finishing with one point. All three of her 3-pointers came in the final 12 minutes.

"It kind of went through each and every player on this team in terms of stepping up and wanting to make plays for us," Frese said.

Brown's layup with 1:10 left gave Maryland a 51-46 lead but Tennessee still had a chance. Massengale answered for Tennessee and the Lady Vols' press forced a turnover. But Burdick's attempt at a tying 3-pointer was short and went out of bounds with 41.9 seconds left and Maryland hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute.

"We couldn't get stops when we needed them in the crunch time and on the offensive end we just couldn't get in a flow," Burdick said. "We couldn't get baskets to drop."

TIP-INS:

Tennessee: The 21-point first half for the Lady Vols was tied for the third fewest in any game this season. Tennessee was held to 18 against Arkansas. ... Tennessee is 18-9 all-time in Elite Eight games.

Maryland: The Terrapins' victory over Tennessee in the 2014 Sweet 16 came on the same date, March 30. ... Maryland is 5-5 all-time in regional finals. ... Maryland was held to a season-low 22 points in the first half but led 22-21.

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