clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No. 3-seed Maryland women’s basketball cruises past No. 6-seed Illinois, 73-58, advances to Big Ten Tournament semis

The Terps will face off against No. 2-seed Iowa tomorrow for the third time this season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 03 Womens Big Ten Tournament Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — There weren’t a lot of smiles in Maryland women’s baketball’s first game of the 2022 Big Ten Tournament. It was left searching for answers, as it failed to reach the championship game — let alone the semifinals — for the first time in its time in the conference. The Terps were sent home packing in their first game of the bracket, falling to Indiana in a lackluster performance.

Friday night, thought, there were smiles. Head coach Brenda Frese let forth an ear-to-ear grin as Maryland women’s basketball extended a run to 20-4 late in the second quarter, bringing its lead to 12.

The No. 3-seed Terps never relinquished the lead the rest of the way, as they achieved the first step toward hoisting their sixth Big Ten Tournament title, defeating No. 6-seed Illinois, 73-58, Friday night.

“I just thought we were locked in,” Frese said.

Nerves and jitters were on display early, with Maryland unable to knock down many of its shots, but Illinois struggled offensively as well, unable to break through the Terps’ press.

It took just over four minutes for senior guard Diamond Miller, whose early, erratic play has been criticized at times this season by head coach Brenda Frese, to be pulled in favor of freshman Bri McDaniel.

Illinois managed to rattle off a 9-0 run behind some strong play from junior guard Makira Cook, who ended up leading all scorers after the first quarter with nine points.

But the Terps would rattle off a run of their own and led 20-18 after the quarter behind McDaniel, who rattled home seven points of her own.

The Terps took the momentum from the Chicago native and ran with it, piling up the points on the Illini as the half went on.

“Once I came on the floor, I just wanted to bring a spark on defense. That’s one thing I can do,” McDaniel said. “Just doing whatever Coach B wants me to do for the team and once we’re clicking our bench is like amazing. This team can do anything that they put their minds to.”

In the second frame, just about everything went right for the Terps. Offensively and defensively, they took over. They received contributions from up and down the lineup, with senior Lavender Briggs continuing her emergence, finishing the half with nine points on 3 of 4 shooting.

“When we came out we started well. You know, the first quarter was good and then just like last game, we played three solid quarters but one quarter really kind of did us in,” Illinois head coach Shauna Green said.

Cook continued to stay hot for the Illini, but unlike Maryland, the depth play wasn’t there.

They finished with zero bench points.

A big storyline coming into the game was Illinois having junior guard Genesis Bryant back, who missed these teams’ Feb. 12 affair in which Maryland won 81-72. Maryland held her to 17 points, with 15 of those coming in the second half.

With a 41-25 lead at the break, Maryland was in the driver seat, but with it being March, and six of the previous nine games in the tournament over the past two days being decided by five points or less, the Terps needed to keep their foot on the gas pedal.

Although Bryant was held in check overall, she ripped the Terps apart in the third, with her eventual 11th point of the frame cutting the Illini’s deficit back down to 10. She picked up her fourth foul of the game shortly thereafter though, and Maryland brought its lead back up to 14 headed into the final quarter.

At the 7:16 mark, Maryland suddenly had a 20-point lead after back-to-back layups from senior Faith Masonius and McDaniel, and the game was all but put out of reach. The crispness of Maryland’s play all night was epitomized.

“It’s a big, big stage that we’re on and we’re having a lot of fun, but we got to lock in,” senior guard Abby Meyers said.

Freshman guard Gia Cooke checked in with 5:40 to go, making herself the ninth Terp to see the floor. All 11 available players played.

“When we can extend our bench [like we did tonight], it’s big,” Frese said. “Growth, maturity, and great confidence is where I think {our bench} has really evolved and kind of understands how important they are to this team.”

It takes a full team effort to win games in March, and Maryland had that on Friday, with eight players seeing at least 12 minutes. Maryland’s bench scored 28 of its 73 points.

“Obviously we’re thrilled about continuing on,” Frese added.

It’ll need contributions from the whole lineup again tomorrow, as it faces off against No. 2-seed Iowa with a championship game berth at stake.

Three things to know

1. A highly-anticipated rubber match is on tap. Maryland and Iowa do not like each other, and they’ll go head-to-head for the third time this season tomorrow. This time, though, a place in the Big Ten championship game is on the line. The Hawkeyes took the first meeting in Iowa City, 96-82, but the Terps responded with a commanding 96-68 victory in College Park on Feb. 21.

If Iowa’s fan presence for its win over Purdue earlier Friday evening was any indication, Saturday’s semifinal will essentially be a home game for the Hawkeyes.

“It’s gonna be a heck of a battle,” Frese said on the looming semifinal against Iowa. “It’ll feel like a home game for [Iowa].”

2. Bri McDaniel continues to give a spark at the right time. McDaniel has been the only freshman to crack meaningful minutes for the Terps this season, but the energy she brings in those minutes has been well-documented. In her first postseason experience, she thrived under the bright lights. She was called into action early in the first quarter, and was Maryland’s best player early on.

She’s been a bolt of energy all throughout the season, and ignited the Terps once again.

“Fearless” was how Frese described the freshman’s nine-point performance.

3. Maryland didn’t make many mistakes on either end of the floor. Illinois committed double the amount of turnovers as Maryland, and the latter took advantage of the formers’ mistakes. The Terps scored 18 points off takeaways, but many of those were timely. From start to finish, this was one of the cleanest displays from Maryland this season. It finished with 20 assists and a 2:1 assist-turnover ratio.

“Defensively we were really aggressive and were able to turn them over for a lot of turnovers,” Frese said. “Offensively, just love the assist-to-turnover ratio as a team just spreading the wealth and being really, really unselfish. “