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Maryland women’s basketball tops Northwestern, 71-58, in Big Ten opener

The Terps’ second-half surge pushed them past the Wildcats.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland women’s basketball was in need of a wakeup call against Northwestern. The final seconds of the first half ticked away with the game tied.

A broken possession ended with Shyanne Sellers heaving a deep three as time expired, but it went down, giving Maryland a three-point lead at the half.

“Thank god that shot went in,” said Sellers. “We were gonna go in tied at half and that didn’t really sit right with me.”

That shot gave Maryland some momentum, and shortly after the Terps found their groove. They outscored the Wildcats 20-6 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.

Sellers led the way, nearly putting up a triple-double with 13 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, as Maryland won its Big Ten opener, 71-58 — the team’s fifth straight win.

Maryland’s second-half turnaround was impressive. It started on the glass, where Maryland was out-rebounded in the first two quarters. In the second half, the Terps fought for every loose ball, ending the game with more offensive rebounds and total rebounds than the Wildcats.

“It’s definitely become part of our identity,” Frese said regarding the team’s ability to fight back on the boards. “It’s got to continue to be who we consistently are.”

The Terps also asserted themselves physically, with 16 second-half free throws to the Wildcats’ seven.

The starters ran the offensive show for Maryland, as the team’s bench only made a combined two field goals. In addition to Sellers, Allie Kubek scored 17 points and Jakia Brown-Turner scored 13.

Plenty of Northwestern turnovers led to Maryland buckets. Maryland had 10 steals, with Sellers forcing half. The Terps totaled 23 points off turnovers compared to just 13 by the Wildcats.

“I think the first possession [of the] third quarter we knew that we had to step it up defensively,” Allie Kubek said.

Both teams started the game slow on the offensive end, with neither team shooting above 50 percent from the floor after the first five minutes of the game. This allowed the Wildcats, who scored their first four buckets in the paint, to keep it close early.

But after that point, Maryland’s offense found a rhythm, going on a 12-4 run to end the period. All of the Terps’ field goals came inside the paint, and the offense used the pick-and-roll to attack an undersized Northwestern frontcourt.

Despite looking to play under the basket, Maryland struggled to defend the paint in the first half. But in the second half, Maryland took over from the start and never let its foot off the gas.

Three things to know

1. Sellers was aggressive. Maryland’s leading scorer has hesitated to put up many shots of recent. After putting up more than 10 shots in each of her first six games, she had only done so once in her last three contests entering Sunday. But against Northwestern, she took 11 shots in the first half alone, which allowed the rest of her game to open up.

“She’s getting a great pulse for what needs to take place,” Frese said.

2. Maryland overcame a bad shooting performance. The Terps went 26-of-66 from the floor and made just three 3-pointers. Maryland also shot under 70% from the free-throw line on 23 attempts.

3. First Big Ten matchup. Sunday marked Maryland’s first conference game of the season, and the Terps started on the right note. Their conference schedule doesn’t resume until Dec. 31, presenting some time to generate momentum before Big Ten play becomes the norm.