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Maryland women's basketball - On to the final Terps tame Wildcats 74-63

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Maryland and Northwestern met for the second time in less than a week and though the Terps came out on the long end of the score again, the Wildcats put up a feisty challenge.

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With a trip to the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament championship game on the line, the top seeded Maryland Terrapins faced the fourth seeded Northwestern Wildcats. The teams met on Sunday in Evanston with Maryland claiming a 69-48 win. The sequel proved more of a challenge but the Terps advanced with a 74-63 win.

First half - Deeeeeeeep depth

The recent 21 point loss proved more incentive than intimidation for the Wildcats who uncaged some pent up emotion and came charging out of the gate from the opening tip. Wildcats' center Alex Cohen scored twice early to help the nominal visitors to an early 6-3 lead.

The Terps immediately came back and took their first lead on back to back layups by Brionna Jones and Laurin Mincy. However, Northwestern led 9-7 at the first media timeout. The situation quickly went from bad to worse for the Terrapins. After they took a 12-11 lead on a Jones layup the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run in a sequence where two off the ball fouls contributed to the outburst.

The first came after Maryland had rebounded a Northwestern miss but the referees spotted a foul on Brionna Jones. It was her second of the half and sent the sophomore to the bench with 11:49 to play in the period. The second came after a made Wildcats basket and gave them a second possession.

"The first ten minutes I thought they really sped us up. I thought we needed to slow ourselves down and get our poise and composure," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. Little could she have suspected the source of that poise and composure.

The Terps struggled with Northwestern's zone tossing up a dozen three pointers in the first 16 minutes and connecting on only three. Fueled by a strong contribution off the bench by Tierney Pfirman who scored two baskets and added a blocked shot and a steal, the Terrapins crept back within half a dozen at 29-23 at the final media timeout.

The bench contributions continued as Brene Mosely took over running the team when Lexie Brown also went to the bench with two fouls. Moseley added seven points while Kristen Confroy added a pair of free throws and Kiara Leslie added some great hustle plays including finishing the half with a Dez Wells like rebound as she came flying in from the left wing to put back Moseley's missed three pointer just before the buzzer as Maryland finished the half on a 24-7 run.. The Terps played the last 4:20 of the half with Mincy the only starter and Maryland's leading scorer for the period with nine on the floor as they transformed that 29-23 deficit into a 36-31 halftime lead. Said Moseley about the play, "It was huge. It was huge. That gave us life. We really needed that."

Maryland held Northwestern to just 2-10 shooting to close the half and forced the Wildcats into eight  turnovers. Ter Terrapins also held a slight 21-18 rebounding edge.

Second half - A blowout but maybe not

The teams traded turnovers and baskets to open the second half but Brionna Jones immediately made her presence known. The sophomore grabbed two early rebounds including one on the offensive end that she put back for a score. A right wing three point jumper by Mincy sent Maryland's lead into double digits for the first time and prompted a timeout by Wildcats coach Joe McKeown.

The Cats responded with a score by Cohen on an offensive rebound but Brown drained a three from the left wing and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough grabbed an offensive rebound and found Malina Howard wide open for a layup and the Terps took a 48-35 lead into the first media timeout.

Brown's steal and layup and another Mincy three pointer after two offensive rebounds inched the Terrapins' lead closer to 20 as Maryland opened the half on a 17-6 run. The Terrapins were also asserting their dominance on the boards. By the under 12 minute timeout, Maryland not only held a 55-37 lead on the scoreboard, they had increased their rebounding margin to 10.

With the lead sitting at 18, Frese again went deep into her bench and for nearly three minutes of game time again had only one starter on the floor - this rotation it was Howard. This lineup put forth great effort especially defensively and on the boards but didn't generate much offense. "It was twofold," Said Frese. "I wanted to be able to rest our starters if we could for tomorrow. I also challenged the bench to stay locked in in terms of being ready again when there number was called."

The cold shooting continued as Maryland endured a 1-15 stretch that included  a number of missed opportunities inside and, after a Northwestern steal, the Wildcats had cut the lead to 10 at 58-48. The Terrapins shooting woes continued as Jones missed three consecutive free throws and the Wildcats had four chances to cut the lead to single digits before Ashley Deary finally did so on a spinning layup and with 3:03 to play the Terrapins' lead was a rather perilous 58-50.

A daring drive and layup by Moseley edged the lead back to 10 but a Terps' turnover led to a breakaway basket for Northwestern but Karly Roser missed the opportunity to add the bonus free throw. Moseley and Deary traded baskets and Brown made a pair of free throws to keep Northwestern at bay. But Roser made another short scoop on a drive to the basket and with 1:31 to play the lead was back to 64-56.

Moseley made one of two free throws and Brown added a pair after a steal to expand the lead back to 67-56. Northwestern's 18th turnover of the game gave the ball back to the Terps with a minute to play. The final minute played out as follows:

Howard was next on Northwestern's desperation foul parade. She made both with 54 second to play.

Moseley made one of two after Deary's missed three pointer and 40 seconds.

Brown made a pair after Roser's three point shot. and the game clock ticked down to 31 seconds.

Howard fouled Lauren Douglas driving to the basket. The junior made both.

With 17.9 seconds left trailing by 11 the Wildcats fouled Moseley. She made both.

Deary made a layup and the Wildcats finally stopped fouling. Moseley dribbled out the 74-63 win. One minute of game time needed almost six minutes of real time.

Brown led the Terrapins with 17 points and Moseley and Mincy added 15 each. Jones led Maryland with 9 rebounds.

Next up for the Terps will be the winner of the second semifinal between Iowa and Ohio State. Maryland will look to equal the program record of 24 straight wins and complete a 21-0 run through the Big Ten in its first season A Big Ten Tournament Championship will be on the line Sunday night in Hoffman Estates.