Up nine at the half, No. 16 Maryland women’s basketball came out flying in the third quarter, scoring 35 points.
Lavender Briggs knocked down four shots for 10 points. She was one of four Terps to register double-digits Friday afternoon, with fellow guards Shyanne Sellers, Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers each having over 15 points and two steals in Maryland’s 107-85 win over Minnesota.
The Terps took full advantage of turning defense into transition offense, as they recorded their highest point total of the season.
Maryland’s first two Big Ten games had been not been ideal, with its first matchup against Nebraska resulting in a 23-point defeat, and it then having to claw its way to a 77-74 victory at Purdue after Shyanne Sellers knocked down a buzzer-beating triple.
Head coach Brenda Frese’s game plan Friday was clear from the onset — play as fast as possible on both ends of the court.
“I thought, you know, we set the tone from the tip,” Frese said.
A full-court press, which hasn’t been overly successful this season for Maryland, had Minnesota scrambling early. The Terps’ defense forced the Gophers into seven first-quarter turnovers, netting three buckets off those takeaways.
Maryland finished the game with 30 points off turnovers compared to Minnesota’s two.
“The fact that we were able to dictate on the defensive end with our press and turnovers was a huge piece in the game for us. And that’s something that we’re very capable of doing every single time we step out on the floor,” Frese added.
On the offensive end, senior guard Abby Meyers led the way with 11 points in the opening frame, including a gorgeous alley-oop finish off a lob pass from graduate guard Elisa Pinzan.
Up 24-15 after the first quarter, Maryland found its way toward the end of the frame and built on that momentum to start the second quarter.
Minnesota had come into the contest leading the Big Ten in rebounds, but the Terps, whose rebounding struggles have been well-documented this season, held their own on the glass, even holding a slim advantage as they extended their lead to 19 early in the second.
The Terps couldn’t pull away just yet, though, as Minnesota’s freshman star, Mara Braun, who averages 18.1 points per game, went on a 7-0 run by herself and brought the lead down to 10 at the halfway point of the quarter.
As the Terps’ shooting went ice cold, the Gophers were red-hot, with a 12-0 run only being stopped by a Sellers jumper.
The high-energy, pressing defense from Maryland broke apart in the second quarter, and the offense was getting most of its points from the free-throw line, finishing the half 10-of-13 from the line.
After a volatile quarter, Minnesota entered halftime with the same deficit it entered the second quarter with.
With 48 first-half points, Maryland had three scorers in double-digits at the break: Miller (14), Sellers (13) and Meyers (11).
The Gophers’ second-half surge had them shooting 50% at the half, though, including a 5-for-12 clip from three.
But the third quarter was much like the first, with the Terps turning defense into offense. The press worked yet again, with Minnesota surrendering seven turnovers.
“We definitely talked about their run that they had,” Miller said. “I mean, they’re a Big Ten team. They’re very competitive and they’re really talented. And the plan was to weather the storm and I think we did that. And especially coming out of halftime we really wanted to make sure they didn’t get another run. So we were just playing better defense and playing harder and running in transition. So getting easier buckets was key.”
The efficiency on both ends of the floor saw the Terps extend their lead to 24 as the third quarter came to a close. They shot 60% from the field in the quarter and took eight more shots than Minnesota.
With the massive lead, Maryland’s freshmen were given their chance to shine in the fourth quarter, with Bri McDaniel, Gia Cooke and Mila Reynolds all seeing action in the frame.
McDaniel and Cooke took advantage of the minutes, scoring a combined 15 points to close out the game.
The Terps finish 2022 with an 11-3 record and will continue Big Ten play with a road contest against Rutgers on Jan. 2.
When asked about her team’s growth this season, Frese said, “After the Nebraska game, they were humbled. They were disappointed. We understand how important every game is and they all matter the same.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s stars showed out. Sellers, Miller and Meyers all eclipsed the 17-point mark Friday. They also all had at least two takeaways, leading the way on both ends of the court. Sellers has now scored at least 15 points in six straight games.
2. The Terps pulled away in the third. After a hectic second quarter, the Terps dominated the Gophers in the third quarter. Suffocating defense led to a ton of open looks, and the Terps knocked those looks down at a 58% clip. The 35-point quarter is the third-highest scoring frame this season for the Terps.
3. Minnesota’s second-quarter rally was all it could muster. The Gophers’ 12-0 run brought their deficit to five points, but that was as close as the game would get. Maryland outscored Minnesota by 22 points outside of the second quarter, exploiting a Minnesota defense that was on its heels all afternoon.