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Terps Frese out Gophers 77-73 move to 4-0 in Big Ten

It was a battle for sole possession of first place early in the Big Ten season and both the visiting Terrapins and the home standing Golden Gophers played at a high level. The Terps emerged with a tense, hard fought 77-73 win.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapins women's basketball team, led by head coach Brenda Frese who returned to Minnesota for the first time since she won Coach of the Year as the head coach of the Golden Gophers, visited The Barn with first place in the Big Ten at stake. The Terps got off to a slow start but recovered as they used their depth, mostly in the person of Brene Moseley whose veins flowed as cold as a Minneapolis winter Sunday, to wear down the Gophers. The 77-73 win moved Maryland to a perfect 4-0 in Big Ten play and 13-2 on the season.

First Half - Shatori and Lexie lead the way

At the outset, the Terps struggled with the Golden Gophers match-up 3-2 zone and the size and athleticism of Amanda Zahui B. The teams traded baskets early before three straight Minnesota baskets gave the Golden Gophers a 10-4 edge. Maryland's inside players got good position but often failed to convert over the presence of Zahui B.

The Terps took their first lead on a breakaway layup by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough who converted after one of Maryland's six first half steals. The squads again traded baskets but, trailing 19-18, the Terrapins went on a 7-0 run ignited by the first of Lexie Brown's three first half three-point jumpers.

Over the remainder of the half, the home team cut the lead to two twice, but Maryland responded to each Golden Gophers run. On four separate occasions, Maryland opened their lead to as much as seven, but just as the Terps responded to the Gophers, the Gophers responded to the Terps and never allowed the lead to stretch beyond that point. The Terps took a 39-34 lead into the break.

Although Maryland had six steals and forced eight Minnesota turnovers that they turned into 10 points and held the Golden Gophers to just one for eight from beyond the arc, Coach Frese could not have been happy with her team's overall defensive effort. The Gophers regularly got the ball inside where Zahui B converted on five of six shots. But Minnesota's center was not the only player to shoot well as the home team shot 50 percent for the half.

Maryland controlled the boards holding a 25-18 edge, including 12 offensive rebounds, that they turned into a 13-3 advantage on second chance points. But the Terps built their lead on the strength of the work of Brown and Walker-Kimbrough who finished the half with 13 and 12 points respectively.

Second Half - Moseley to the rescue

The Terps opened up their largest lead of the game when Brionna Jones, who shot just three for seven in the first half, converted an old-fashioned three-point play. But Jones picked up a charging foul and went to bench with three fouls with 17:45 to play.

The Terps went cold from the field and failed to convert a field goal for over six minutes. The drought fueled an 11-1   Gophers run to recapture the lead for the first time since early in the first half. The Terps knotted the score on layup by A'Lexus Harrison after Walker Kimbrough rebounded Brown's missed three pointer. A steal by Brown led to a Walker-Kimbrough layup and the Terps edged back in front.

Frese got another contribution off her bench in the form of two three-point jumpers from Brene Moseley, the second of which gave the Terps a 55-52 lead. However, Minnesota responded by breaking Maryland's press and finding Zahui B wide open under the basket and a steal and layup by Shae Kelly put the Gophers back in front and prompted a Terrapins timeout.

Another Moseley three pointer from the left corner put the Terps back in front following the team's eighth steal of the game. Whether Minnesota was executing exceptionally well on offense or Maryland lacked their usual defensive intensity, the Gophers were even more efficient offensively in the second half than they had been in the first. As the teams went to the bench for the under eight minute media timeout tied at 62, Minnesota was shooting 60 percent for the half and nearly 54 percent for the game.

A terrific sequence by Jones when she blocked a shot and knocked a rebound off Zahui B and scored on a layup on the offensive end put the Terps up by two. After Jones picked up her fourth foul, a frustration foul following a block by Zahui B, two Lexie Brown free throws put the Terps up by four.

A key box out and two free throws by Malina Howard gave the Terps a six-point cushion. But two free throws and back-to-back baskets by Zahui B pulled the Gophers even. A Minnesota timeout with 1:10 to play let Frese get Jones back in the game. Moseley found Brown for an open three, but Minnesota responded with a three of their own.

The Terps looked to have the last possession and it again fell to Moseley off the bench. With the shot clock running down, Moseley drove the lane, drew a foul on Zahui B and calmly made both free throws after a Minnesota timeout with 2.8 seconds to play. Strong defensive pressure by Harrison caused a Minnesota turnover on the inbounds play. Moseley was fouled again on Maryland's inbounds play and again made both free throws for the final 77-73 margin.

Life gets no easier for Maryland as the Terps will travel to number 23/24 Rutgers for another tough road contest Thursday night.