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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball downs Illinois, 82-71

The Terps were still clicking offensively despite going 0-for-17 from deep.

Photo courtesy of Maryland women’s basketball on Twitter.

With a 56-45 lead in the third quarter, Maryland women’s basketball freshman guard Bri McDaniel applied heavy on-ball pressure to Illinois guard Brynn Shoup-Hill.

McDaniel’s defensive activity poked the ball loose, as Maryland senior guard Abby Meyers corralled the ball and finished a layup despite being fouled. The No. 8 Terps’ dominant third-quarter performance was enough for an 82-71 victory over Illinois Sunday at XFINITY Center.

Maryland senior guard Diamond Miller led all scorers with 31 points, while Meyers’ 14 points in the third quarter provided a burst of energy after a sluggish start.

“I thought the response in the third quarter when it was 31-8, using our full-court press [and] we were a lot more dialed in,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.

The Terps (21-5) improved their record to 12-3 in Big Ten play with three games remaining in the season.

Maryland got off to a fast start, as Meyers used a few hard dribbles to finish a reverse layup and give the Terps an early 4-0 lead.

Following a free throw by Illinois guard Jayla Oden, the Fighting Illini skipped a pass to guard Brynn Shoup-Hill to even the game at four.

The Terps struggled to make shots in the opening period, as they went 6-for-15 from the field and were held without a field goal for over three minutes.

Illinois reserve guard Jada Peebles quickly made an impact with two shots from distance to give the Illini a 13-10 lead. The Fighting Illini continued to find success from deep, as they drained all five of their three-point attempts in the period.

Illinois had a 20-14 lead after the first quarter in a surprising effort on the road. Maryland couldn’t overcome its five turnovers and looked to give its offense more opportunities to make the defense pay.

The Terps looked like a completely different team in the second quarter, as they got two unanswered buckets from forward Faith Masonius and Miller. Early in the quarter, Masonius brought down an offensive rebound and pivoted, looking for an open teammate. She delivered a no-look pass to sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers for a layup to even the game at 20.

Maryland improved its production in the second quarter, shooting 7-of-19 from the field while not recording a single 3-pointer in the first half. And while the Terps couldn’t hit their shots from deep, they also couldn’t stop Illinois from raining threes.

Illinois’ leading scorer Makira Cook drained a shot from distance to start a 6-0 run for the Fighting Illini. A few possessions later, Cook converted a floater to extend her team’s lead to 10.

With under two minutes until halftime, Illinois’ dual offensive attack continued to cause a myriad of problems for the Terps. Peebles continued her hot start, as her fourth triple of the half gave Illinois a 37-28 lead at the break.

Similar to the second quarter, Maryland started the third quarter fast, led by its All-Big Ten guard. Miller’s sudden move to the rim yielded a foul along with a bucket scored. She made the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play, trimming the Terps’ deficit to six.

Trailing 39-33 just over a minute into the third quarter, Maryland senior guard Elisa Pinzan secured a defensive rebound before launching a full-court pass to Abby Meyers for a layup. Maryland’s defense scored 17 points off 10 Illinois turnovers, which began to ignite the Terps’ dynamic offense.

And not long after, Miller used a blazing first step and left-handed finish to even the game at 39. The Terps later took a 46-43 lead after Meyers’ layup and free throw converted a three-point play.

“Zone is great, but there’s also a lot of gaps in the zone and once you find those gaps, it kind of just opens up the zone into easy opportunities for you or your teammates,” Miller said. “So just looking at the gaps and once you expose the gaps, keep attacking the gaps.”

Meyers came alive in the third quarter, totaling 14 points on a 6-for-8 showing from the field.

Maryland used a 14-0 run to end the period with a 59-45 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play.

Miller scored 10 points in the fourth quarter on several drives to the rim and a perfect 4-for-4 performance from the free-throw line.

“Halftime was what halftime needed to be. I think that fired us up. We came out [of the locker room] playing good defense and were executing on both sides of the ball,” Miller said.

Cook drilled a 3-pointer with under four minutes remaining to cut Illinois’ deficit to 10, but it wasn’t enough to threaten the outcome of the game.

The Terps finish two of their final three games on the road, as they head to Breslin Center next for a tilt with Michigan State on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Three things to know

1. The Terps won after another slow start. Maryland picks up another victory after a recent trend of slow starts for the program. The Terps have been hit first in a few, but like today they respond in impressive fashion. Maryland’s 31 point third quarter provided a litany of problems for Illinois, as 12 came in fast break opportunities. There are three notable opponents remaining on the Terps’ schedule and slow starts could be a recipe for disaster for Maryland moving forward.

2. Maryland couldn’t make or defend the three. Illinois got off to a good start on the road versus a hot Maryland team. The Fighting Illini’s point of attack was felt from three-point range, as they made eight triples in the first half. Illinois didn’t just shoot it well from distance, it limited Maryland’s effectiveness from deep as well. The Terps were 0-for-17 from deep but somehow still managed to score 82 points.

3. No cruising to the end. Maryland has played well this season, evidenced by its five ranked victories and 19th consecutive 20-win season under head coach Brenda Frese. The Terps have a tough three games to end the 2022-23 season – two on the road and one at home. Maryland has previously faced each of its final opponents this season, going 2-1 in those games. Next, Frese’s squad will make a trip to East Lansing for a clash with Michigan State, which it defeated earlier, 94-85. The Terps will look to continue building momentum heading into other matchups with No. 5 Iowa and No. 13 Ohio State.