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Maryland women’s basketball rides defense to 69-53 win at Illinois

The Terps stymied the Fighting Illini on the road.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

It’s been an up and down season for Maryland women’s basketball, but the Terps put forth a comprehensively positive performance Sunday at Illinois.

In the first half, Maryland focused its energy on the defensive end, limiting the Fighting Illini to just nine made field goals. When it came time to close out the game in the fourth quarter, the Terps’ offense took over.

Shyanne Sellers had 11 points in the fourth quarter — including some smooth jumpers — to help lead Maryland past Illinois, 69-53, for its second straight road win.

Having struggled against conference opponents throughout the season, head coach Brenda Frese’s squad put together one of its best performances of the season on Sunday. The Terps (14-10, 6-7 Big Ten) didn’t have their most prolific offensive showcase of the season, but their defense made the difference. Illinois (11-12, 5-8) couldn’t find open looks and shot just 31.8% from the field and a dismal 23.1% from three.

Three Terps had a double-double, with Sellers, Jakia Brown-Turner and Allie Kubek having strong showings both scoring and rebounding the basketball. The Terps outperformed Illinois on the boards, winning the rebounding battle, 47-33.

“I thought we were able to kind of change the game with our rebounding and our defense,” said Frese.

Center Camille Hobby finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Maryland’s defensive prowess. Starting forward Kendall Bostic was limited to two points on 1-for-7 shooting after scoring 13 points in the teams’ first matchup this season.

Neither team could maintain a foothold to start, but things started to turn in the backend of the first quarter. Maryland’s defense locked Illinois down, not allowing it any space. Illinois went without a field goal for over five minutes to end the period, and a Brown-Turner layup gave Maryland a five-point lead.

Despite some ball security struggles — Maryland turned the ball over 13 times in the first half — the Terps kept up their effort in the second quarter. Illinois made just one field goal in the first six minutes.

“That was kind of uncharacteristic of us,” Frese said of her team’s turnovers.

Near the end of the half, Maryland started to find an offensive groove. The Terps shot 45.5% from the field in the second quarter, with Lavender Briggs and Kubek combining for eight points off the bench.

The Terps kept up their intensity in the second half, with Kubek totaling seven third-quarter points. Their lead would continue to grow in the final quarter, and they rode it to a second victory over the Fighting Illini this season.

Three things to know

1. The Terps’ defense was sound. Maryland made an early decision to contest Illinois when it drove inside and force the ball back to the perimeter. After shooting 17% from beyond the arc in the first half, the Fighting Illini were left without answers.

2. Maryland’s bench contributed. Kubek had a huge game off the bench, scoring 13 points and coming down with 10 boards. Briggs had 15 points off the bench as well.

“It was, you know, exactly what we need to have out of Allie,” Frese said.

3. Two straight road wins. The Terps have won two straight games on the road in conference play. They have just three road wins all season with just five games left on their regular-season schedule.

“As we’re getting closer to March, we’re are hitting the nitty gritty, and you know teams are fighting for a spot,” Sellers said.