In its last two losses, Maryland women’s basketball had trouble in the third quarter. The games were the first two instances this season that the Terps lost after leading at halftime.
Up by two at the break on Saturday afternoon, the Terps had to close the game out in the second half against Illinois. While they led by just three points after the end of the third, Maryland didn’t let this one slip away.
Maryland extended its lead in the fourth quarter and held on, as both guard Jakia Brown-Turner and guard Bri McDaniel scored at least 20 points to power Maryland to a 90-82 bounce-back victory.
“I think we’re just figuring a groove how to seal games at the end,” guard Shyanne Sellers said, “I feel like we’re just becoming Maryland.”
The first half wasn’t the best display of Maryland’s scoring prowess, with three of its starters combining for just three points. But in the second half, the Terps (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten) shot over 50% from the field. The home team was finding different ways to score and being unselfish with the basketball, finishing with 23 assists.
McDaniel led the way with 22 points and Brown-Turner had a season-high of 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds, her first double-double in a Maryland jersey. Allie Kubek also scored her first points in the last four games, ending up with 17 points and four rebounds. Sellers finished with 14 points and a team-high nine assists.
Illinois (8-9, 2-5) put up a fight for most of the game, shooting over 50% from the floor. Six of its players scored in double digits, with Genesis Bryant leading the way with 19. But it wasn’t able to prevent Maryland from shooting the three in the second half, with the Terps going 5-for-6 from behind the arc in the third and fourth quarters.
The squads went back and forth for the beginning of the first quarter. While neither team could grab a foothold, McDaniel impressed with 12 first-quarter points. She left with an injury at the end of the period, but would eventually return three minutes into the second quarter.
“The only time I have to get on her is when she takes herself off the court,” Frese said of McDaniel. “By far the most improved player in the league.”
McDaniel kept making an impact, but the rest of the Terps were late to the party. Kubek was the only other player in double figures for Maryland in the first half.
The Fighting Illini battled the entire first half, and a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Gretchen Dolan brought them within two. As the second half began, Maryland started to shake off its third-quarter woes and took a short-lived nine-point lead, but a collection of Illinois 3-pointers trimmed the margin.
However, the Terps rallied in the fourth to bring themselves above .500 against Big Ten opponents this season.
Three things to know
1. Sellers was cold to start. Sellers didn’t make a shot in the first half of Saturday’s game. She later added 14 points and finished with nine assists, but will need to start faster against some of Maryland’s future competition.
“Unfortunately the rim just didn’t like me in the first half,” Sellers said.
2. The Terps did well on the boards. Maryland entered Saturday ranking second-to-last in the conference in rebounds allowed per game. But against Illinois, the Terps were able to win the battle on the boards, 34-27.
3. Back on the road. The Terps have some crucial games coming up on the road. They will travel to play Michigan and Penn State next; both of those teams have the same number of wins as Maryland.