Finding itself in its third-straight close game entering the fourth quarter, No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball was searching for the answer in its Big Ten home opener.
With exactly six minutes to play and only leading by six, the Terps needed one last push to run away with the game. It all started with graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby.
Redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins had possession on the right side of the basket, finding a cutting Bibby for the layup plus the foul. Bibby sunk the free throw, extending the Maryland lead to nine. Junior guard Ashley Owusu stole the ball from Purdue senior guard Brooke Moore on the next defensive set but missed the jumper. There for her fourth offensive rebound was Bibby, who passed it back to Owusu for the assist.
Just twenty seconds after her initial bucket in Maryland’s game-deciding 9-0 run, Bibby was on the ground fighting for the ball, picking up her fifth offensive board. From the floor, Bibby tossed it to Collins, who brought the Terps’ lead to 72-59 with a layup. A mid-range jumper from graduate student guard Katie Benzan polished off the run, and the victory was in the bag at that point.
The Terps picked up their ninth win of the season and improved to 2-0 in conference play with a 86-71 win over Purdue on Wednesday night in College Park, Maryland.
“[Chloe] was just really active, you know, cutting and moving,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Obviously when we can get to the glass like that, both her and Mimi getting five O-boards. I thought we needed everyone of Ashley’s nine boards that was she able to get. But Chloe was very patient within the game and letting the game come to her, but I thought her plays were big when we needed them.”
Wednesday’s pregame was not short of pregame news. Maryland junior guard Diamond Miller (knee) was in uniform and warmed up but was again ruled out as she continues to deal with her knee injury. Purdue suffered a couple of massive losses, though, with its two leading scorers in sophomore guard Madison Layden (non-COVID illness) and 6-foot-6 center Ra Shaya Kyle (lower leg injury) being ruled out.
Maryland came out of the gates with fire, rattling off a 6-0 run after winning the jump ball. After a couple of respective missed jumpers from Owusu and Benzan, Owusu corralled the offensive rebound off Benzan’s three-point attempt for the third-chance bucket to put the Terps on the board.
The Terps forced three Purdue turnovers in the first three minutes to extend their lead to 9-2, but the Boilermakers rallied off a spurt of their own to get the game to 13-12 in Maryland’s favor by the first media timeout.
Purdue took a 17-15 lead on senior guard Cassidy Hardin’s wing triple with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter, largely in part to its 78% shooting start.
The Boilermakers withstood another 6-0 Maryland burst at the end of the quarter with a deep three from Moore off a nifty assist from junior guard Jeanae Terry, who passed out of a double-team. The first quarter would end with Purdue leading 22-21 after a sensational 9-of-12 showing from the field.
Four points marked Purdue’s lead to begin the second quarter following another Moore three-ball, but the Terps would respond with five straight points, including an Owusu strong take to the cup, to retake the lead.
Much like Miami did on Dec. 2, though, Purdue would not go away without a fight.
Trailing 29-26 and enduring a two-plus minute scoring drought, Maryland ripped off yet another 6-0 run to take a 32-29 lead with under four minutes to play in the half. However, that would be the last lead the Terps saw in the first 20 minutes, with Purdue ending the second quarter on an 11-4 stretch.
With seemingly every Maryland sequence to hop back in front, Purdue had an answer, often from deep. Led by Moore’s 17 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting from distance, Purdue walked into the halftime locker room with a 40-36 halftime lead.
“It’s been a rough ride for us the last three months with changing the coaches and everything,” Purdue head coach Katie Gearlds said. “But we’ve just stuck together. Nobody thought we’d be up by four points here at halftime. Well, we just got a group of fighters and we hung around today.”
Purdue’s lead soon vanished at the start of the third quarter. It was sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese who added on to her 10 first-half points with a free throw and an old-fashioned three-point play to even the score at 40. Benzan then splashed in her third three-pointer on an assist from Reese to cap off a 7-0 Maryland beginning to the quarter and hand the Terps the lead again.
The game was evened again at 45 apiece after senior guard Rokia Doumbia nailed a three-pointer and held a pose for the Xfinity Center crowd.
It appeared the Terps established their grip on the game from there, using a 10-2 run to pick up a game-high lead of eight points with about two and a half minutes to play in the third quarter.
Still, Purdue was relentless. Junior guard Jeanne Terry and Moore — with her sixth three — strung together back-to-back three-point plays to cut the lead to two again. But, an Owusu layup and two free throws from Benzan in the final minute wrapped up a much-needed 23-13 third quarter for Maryland, which led 59-53 with 10 minutes to play.
“Moore, we had no answer for,” Frese said. “She was in a zone and really stepped up and played well.”
A jumper by junior guard Abbey Ellis sliced Maryland’s lead to 61-57 with fewer than eight minutes to play, but two timely deuces by Owusu and Collins pushed the lead back to eight, forcing Gearlds to burn a timeout.
The run featuring Bibby’s star play was ended by a Hardin three-pointer with just over four minutes to play, but the Terps would run away with the game from there.
By the 1:49 mark of regulation, Maryland was leading by 18 thanks to another extended run, as the Boilermakers had no answer for the Terps on the defensive end.
Four Terps finished in double figures, led by Owusu’s 20 points, to recap a dominant fourth-quarter and a third-straight triumph for Maryland.
“I thought we looked like Maryland basketball in the fourth quarter, so big plus for us in the second half,” Frese said.
Three things to know
1. Maryland was cold in the first half, but Purdue was scorching hot. Despite the strong start to the game, it was not a half to be pleased with for Maryland. Even though Maryland earned 15 more first-half shot attempts than Purdue, it only shot 35% from the field. The Boilermakers made the most of their 25 field goal opportunities in the first half, converting on 64% of them. Purdue had an excessive 15 turnovers in the first half but was able to maintain the lead with a lights-out 8-of-13 clinic from deep.
“We were disappointed in the first half, but we have to take some lessons and learn from it so that come Sunday [at No. 1 South Carolina] and come the following games, that doesn’t happen,” Benzan said. “Because we want to show that we’re a top-10 team and we deserve to be in that conversation, and that starts on Sunday with our intensity.”
2. It was truly a live-by-the-three, die-by-the-three type of night for the Boilermakers. Purdue was lights out from distance in the first half and continued to let loose into the second half. Out of the Boilermakers' 58 field goal attempts, 55.2% of them came from three. Purdue averaged 23.6 three-point attempts per game heading into Wednesday and continued to live by that billing against the Terps. Purdue only got to the line for one free-throw attempt in the first three quarters and lost the points in the paint battle, 42-20.
“Yeah, especially four-out, one-in, and we’re a big lineup right now, you know, given where Chloe’s playing, so very difficult,” Frese said of coaching against Purdue’s three-point barrage. “...Again, I thought we were able to kind of get the rhythm of their offense by the fourth quarter. It’s got to take us sooner to understand their drives and kicks and our rotations defensively. So, you know, it’s December, but we’ve got to start with a veteran-led team, we’ve got to start getting there.”
3. Purdue turned the ball over frequently, and Maryland took advantage. Purdue’s three-point shooting kept it within range all night long, but its turnover problem came back to haunt it. The Boilermakers turned the ball over 23 times, and the Terps generated 34 points off turnovers. Maryland’s offense exploded with 86 points, but it had bright spots on the defensive end against Purdue, as well.