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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball rolls past Rutgers, 80-56

Four Terps scored in double figures.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @TerpsWBB

No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball forced 23 turnovers and had four double-digit scorers Sunday afternoon, as it cruised to an 80-56 victory over Rutgers at XFINITY Center.

The Terps (14-4) completed the season sweep of Rutgers (8-11, 2-5 Big Ten) and moved to 5-2 in conference play.

Both teams looked to push the tempo early on.

Fifteen seconds into the game, a pass led to a quick layup for Rutgers junior forward Chyna Cornwell. On the ensuing possession, a steal by Maryland senior guard Diamond Miller led to an effortless layup by sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers.

Following Cornwell’s second layup of the opening quarter, Maryland’s offense began to execute at a high level.

Just over two minutes later, Rutgers senior guard Kai Carter secured a defensive rebound. Miller hounded Carter — using her 6-foot-3 frame to block passing lanes — ultimately forcing a steal that led to a layup. Miller’s layup gave the Terps its first lead of 4-2 early in the Big Ten clash.

Maryland senior guard Abby Meyers was also aggressive from the onset of the game, consistently looking for her shot, which led to 10 first-quarter points. She drilled 2-of-5 shots from beyond the arc and was effective in creating separation for her textbook jump shot.

The Terps took a 23-16 lead after the first 10 minutes, led by a defense that forced 12 turnovers and collected nine steals.

“We’ve really worked on our press. We had a lull there in the third quarter. But I think pressing gets us going. When we kind of sit back in our press, we tend to get a little stagnant, but I think being in our press gives us momentum to score,” Maryland senior guard Brinae Alexander said.

Maryland continued to move the ball with precision in the second quarter and an unselfish play in the period verified that.

Early in the quarter, Alexander secured an offensive rebound. Alexander, pivoting and looking for an open teammate, found Meyers slashing to the rim for a backdoor layup, extending the Terps’ lead to 29-18.

Sporting a sizable lead, Maryland’s activity on defense led to favorable numbers on the opposite end. On a two-on-one fast break, Miller dribbled hard toward a Rutgers defender before delivering a bounce pass to freshman guard GiGi Cooke for a layup. The freshman’s hustle concluded a 13-0 run for Maryland, as its lead stretched to 19.

“The beauty is we’re going to continue to keep having more games that are going to test this [our ability to share the ball] and our trust level. In a game like today, to be able to see the bounce back so quickly, I think it continues to reinforce what we look like as a team when we understand sharing the basketball,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.

The Scarlet Knights wouldn’t quit, as their star freshman would begin to lead their comeback attempt. Guard Kaylene Smikle poured in 29 points in the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 2 and began to find her rhythm offensively Sunday. Facing a 37-18 deficit and with less than four minutes until halftime, Rutgers would find its star freshman on the wing. Smikle wasted little motion before swishing in a 3-pointer, three of her team-leading 21 points on the day.

Maryland headed into the locker room with a 44-28 lead after forcing a whopping 17 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Maryland continued to control the pace of the game on both ends of the floor coming out of the halftime break. Although Rutgers hung around in the third quarter, Maryland pulled away in the fourth.

An array of 3-pointers by Maryland’s stars in the final period put the finishing touches on a dominant win for the Terps.

Maryland will head north on Thursday for another Big Ten clash with Wisconsin.

Three things to know

1. Maryland completed the season sweep of Rutgers. The Terps used an electric showing from senior guard Abby Meyers (22 points) to pull away for a 78-67 victory in their first matchup with Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey on Jan. 2. In the second matchup less than two weeks later, the Terps once again got the best of the Scarlet Knights, outscoring them by multiple possessions in each of the four quarters.

2. Brinae Alexander reached 1,000 career points. Frese has said Alexander’s “SEC experience” plays a role in her resolve in games and knowledge when to make the right plays for her team. The Vanderbilt transfer shot the lights out at XFINITY Center Sunday, draining 6-of-8 of her 3-point attempts. Alexander provided a scoring jolt off the bench for the Terps with a season high of 20 points.

3. A two-game road trip awaits. The Terps rebounded from a narrow loss and picked up a confidence-building victory over Rutgers on Sunday. Maryland will now embark on a two-game road trip, beginning with a Jan. 19 date at Wisconsin.