As the No. 3 team in the country, Maryland women’s basketball is used to controlling the game. The Terps like to force teams to play an up-tempo pace for 40 minutes, which usually results in a victory after opponents get worn out by the aggressive pace.
Sunday’s first half was different, as Rutgers’ slow offensive tempo and intense defense was the Jekyll to Maryland’s Hyde. The Terps looked out of sync on the offensive end, committing sloppy passes and putting up tough shots late in the shot clock. Scarlet Knights forwards Jordan Wallace and Desiree Keeling did a good job fronting Brionna Jones, which only added to Maryland’s struggles.
“I thought Rutgers came in and their style of play was evident in the first half. They did a really good job slowing the game down and taking possessions away from us,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
It resulted in a season-low 14 points in the first quarter for the Terps, and they led at halftime 34-30, which is tied for their smallest halftime lead this season. But a closer look at the halftime statistics showed it was only a matter of time before Maryland took over the game.
The Terps outrebounded Rutgers 23-12 in the first half, and also dominated points in the paint and second chance points. The Scarlet Knights were 5-of-7 on three-pointers, which was well above their .295 percentage on the season. They also got an uncanny first-half performance from sophomore guard Jazlynd Rollins, who made all six of her attempts and scored 15 points, nearly 13 more than her season average.
Maryland looked like it finally got in a rhythm at the end of the half, scoring nine of its 20 second-quarter points in the final 1:30. The Terps’ strong finish to the first half translated to a hot start to the second. Maryland started the second half on a 21-4 run that extended the lead to 55-34 and put the game out of reach. The Terps shot 10-of-13 in the quarter, and outscored the Scarlet Knights 26-13 to take a 60-43 lead.
“At halftime, coach challenged us guards. We got to be able to move on offense and don’t be surprised when we get wide-open jump shots,” senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough said. “I thought in the first half, we got a lot of jump shots but they weren’t really falling, but our coach told us to start driving, and once we started driving, Destiny [Slocum] started hitting, Kristen [Confroy] started hitting and it just opened up everything else.”
Maryland was scorching on the offensive end, and the opposite could be said for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have struggled offensively all season, and it caught up to them in the third quarter as they were called for three shot-clock violations in the first half of the period alone.
The Terps also contained Rutgers’ scoring to inside the three-point line, as the Scarlet Knights took only two threes in the quarter. Maryland started hitting its threes as well, going 3-for-5 in the quarter after going 2-for-9 in the first half.
“Maryland got a lot more serious,” Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “I think they may have thought that we were going to lay down.”
The third quarter made the difference, as the Terps were able to cruise for most of the fourth quarter before Rutgers made a comeback against Maryland’s reserves.
The Terps’ last four opponents have had the lead at some point, but Maryland has come out with a win each time. This is a slightly concerning trend, but it also shows that the team is No. 3 in the country for a reason. It only takes one spurt for them to put a game away.