Maryland women’s basketball graduate guard Abby Meyers did her signature over-the-shoulder half-court shot during Friday’s shootaround. She’s done this in most games this season and it shows her light-hearted approach to the game.
She hit the shot Friday on her first try, which began a good day of basketball for the Terps that ended in a 73-59 win over Illinois and set up a third date with Iowa. But before the third installment of the season series in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, here are some takeaways from Friday’s game.
Maryland revved up at the right time.
When Illinois made an early run in the first quarter, Maryland punched back. Hard. Illinois scored only seven points in the second quarter. The Terps shared the ball immensely well during that first half and made the extra pass to get the best available shot.
Multiple times, players kicked the ball out to Lavender Briggs for corner 3-pointers. The 3-pointer wasn’t the main source of success for Maryland, but it still was able to get contributions from an array of areas on the floor.
Shyanne Sellers, who has been one of the nation’s top sophomores, flexed her basketball IQ and inbounded the ball off an Illinois player’s back and hit the layup. It seemed like Maryland was toying with Illinois during that second quarter, as it forced the Illini into committing eight turnovers.
“I just think that’s people being playmakers,” Meyers said. “Knowing the game, playing the game long enough, we’re all very capable basketball players. We know the right play from the wrong, it’s a constant learning process for us.”
Maryland received contributions from everyone except Elisa Pinzan in the first half. It was a balanced performance that demonstrated head coach Brenda Frese’s point about how successful the Terps were in sharing the ball.
“A 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a quarterfinal game bodes really well,” Frese said. “When we just continue to keep taking what the defense gives us ... that’s how you’re able to give some relief in those possessions.”
Going up 20 points entering the fourth quarter helped the cause, too, and was a result of Maryland clicking on all cylinders throughout the game. Six players had at least six points for Maryland. Senior Diamond Miller and Meyers each had 14.
Did Genesis Bryant make a difference?
Genesis Bryant was out with an injury when Illinois came to College Park earlier in the season. For the Fighting Illini, it was a big loss but also Maryland’s gain. The Terps took full advantage of her absence on Feb. 12, but Bryant was active Friday and had a solid showing for the Illini.
Bryant helped Illinois get out to a 9-0 run in the first quarter after her team started the game 0-for-5 from the field. But individually, she was not much of an overall factor in the first half of the game. She has been a strong player for Illinois throughout the season, but Maryland had her number during the first half of the quarterfinal round.
She had 11 points in the third quarter for Illinois, and it desperately needed them while she fought to cut Maryland’s lead. She was a bit more efficient than her teammate Makira Cook shooting from the field but finished the game with four fouls.
“She’s a great shooter, scorer,” Frese said. “We were trying to get her out of the game and we couldn’t get in there in the entire fourth quarter. I thought she was really disciplined when she picked up her fourth [foul] not to get her fifth.”
Bri McDaniel and the bench showed up.
Frese has taken a big liking to McDaniel during the season and has said she’s made the biggest improvement of the freshmen group. Frese inserted McDaniel into the game early in the first quarter, and she made the most of each minute.
After five minutes of action in the first quarter, she had seven points and flexed the muscle of Maryland’s bench.
“One thing I can say, once I came on the floor I wanted to bring a spark on defense,” McDaniel said. “This team can do anything they put their minds to so sticking together has been good.”
Maryland’s bench has made tremendous contributions over the last few games, in particular Briggs and graduate guard Brinae Alexander. At the final buzzer, Maryland’s reserves had outscored Illinois’ 28-0.
“Great growth, maturity and great confidence,” Frese said. “I think they’ve really evolved and understand how important they are to this team.”
Briggs admitted multiple times her confidence has wavered early in the season and told Testudo Times that at one point this year basketball wasn’t fun for her. She played with tremendous poise and freedom against Illinois. It was evident when she attempted 3-pointers and held her follow-through.
“I actually intentionally wanted to get them in earlier,” Frese said. “I thought Bri was fearless tonight ... she’s got a big upside.”