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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball smothers Northwestern, 79-54

The Terps didn’t allow a field goal in the second quarter.

Photo courtesy of Maryland women’s basketball on Twitter.

No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball had palpable momentum heading into its road contest Thursday night after defeating Ohio State by 36 points. The Terps entered Thursday’s game against Northwestern boasting a sense of pride.

Maryland experimented with different schemes on both sides of the court, and each seemed to work in its 79-54 victory over the Wildcats.

The Terps made it a recent priority to curate good first halves. Thursday, it started the game on a 7-0 run and forced Northwestern to miss its first six shot attempts. Give credit to Northwestern for erasing the lead as fast as the Terps created it, though. The Wildcats ended the first quarter up four after a Jillian Brown jumper at the buzzer. Twelve of their 20 points through the first 10 minutes came in the paint.

After a layup by Maryland senior forward Diamond Miller, she ran back on defense clapping her hands twice and yelled “Let’s go” to her teammates. Maryland was down 20-19 at that juncture of the second quarter, something they did not expect so early in the game.

The Terps’ response was quite on brand. They held Northwestern scoreless for over seven minutes and forced the Wildcats to go 0-for-13 during that span. The only second-quarter points for Northwestern came at the free-throw line with under a minute left. Maryland hadn’t shut out an opponent in a quarter this season but came pretty close. Still, Northwestern went into halftime without making a field goal.

The Terps’ zone defense had been responsible for limiting Northwestern’s offense. The minute Maryland tried a man-to-man approach in the third quarter, Sydney Woods got a layup for the Wildcats.

Maryland had a slight scare in the third quarter after Miller was hit in the face on a rebound attempt and immediately went to the locker room in visible pain. She returned to the game and finished her night with a near triple-double of 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

She was impressed by the fact Maryland nearly held a team scoreless in a quarter.

“That was cool. That just shows how good our defense can be and how we continue to work and execute the game plan, that we could play some really good defense,” Miller said. “That's really impressive.”

Head coach Brenda Frese made it known that what her team almost accomplished is incredibly challenging, especially in the Big Ten conference which traditionally has multiple ranked teams.

Maryland’s next game will be on Super Bowl Sunday, its senior day game against Illinois. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.

Three things to know

1. Winning pedigree. Maryland has won 20-plus games each of the last 18 years — the two years outside of that were 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. Those were the first two seasons of the Brenda Frese era in College Park. Maryland’s best record during Frese’s tenure was in 2014-2015 when it went 34-3.

2. Bri McDaniel continues to break out. Frese has said the games are practices for the freshmen, and they need to earn the trust of the veteran head coach. Well, playing in front of her hometown friends and family, freshman guard Bri McDaniel made a compelling case for more minutes as she finished with a career-high 14 points. Her confidence has gone up and down during the season.

“I just had to channel myself, come back home and get myself together and then come back and just play my game and do what I need to do for the team,” a smiling McDaniel said.

3. Lucky sevens. Maryland played the slots perfectly, rolling sevens every time. Interestingly, the Terps began each quarter with a 7-0 run or greater and it added to Frese’s emphasis of starting each quarter strong.

“It matters,” Frese said. “We’re trying to get to that level of consistency. We know we only have five more games — now four — so just really trying to fine-tune in all areas and (it’s) important for us to understand how valuable every quarter is.”