Maryland women’s basketball could have been in trouble against Northwestern. The Wildcats trotted out four seniors and a redshirt senior in their starting lineup, which included three time All-Big Ten selection Nia Coffey and reigning conference defensive player of the year Ashley Deary. Northwestern had also beaten a ranked team this season and played a tight game against No. 11 Ohio State earlier this week.
But the Wildcats, like every other team in the Big Ten, have struggled against Maryland since the Terps moved to the conference in 2014, having lost all five meetings. That trend continued Saturday.
Northwestern had no answer for Maryland, and the game got out of hand quickly. The Terps forced three straight turnovers to start the game, and scored off all three to take a 6-0 lead. Maryland forced four more turnovers on its way to a 23-10 lead, and also held the Wildcats to 22 percent shooting.
“I thought we got better today, especially on the defensive end,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “That’s something that we spent a lot of time talking about and really wanted to improve. I thought we came out really aggressive, which led to some confidence on the offensive end.”
The Terps also did an excellent job containing Nia Coffey in the first half, as she had only five points and didn’t hit a field goal.
“We tried to get her the ball,” Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown said of Coffey. “We weren’t able to be out in transition and we couldn’t give her the ball where she could put it on the floor and attack.”
Coffey took over and scored 17 points in the third quarter, but that was during garbage time.
Maryland was really able to establish its offense, whether in half-court or transition, on its way to 60 percent shooting in the quarter. Maryland cooled down to 39 percent in the second quarter, but started to heat up from beyond the arc. The Terps were shooting 33.9 percent on three-pointers coming into Saturday’s game, but were 5-of-10 in the second quarter alone.
Maryland has gotten plenty of open threes all season due to opponents double-teaming Brionna Jones, and started hitting them today.
“I think when we play through Bri it’s actually easier for the game. We just can’t forget it,” Frese said. “She’s so unselfish on the double teams that she allows us to step in and make a lot of great plays.”
After Christen Inman hit a jumper to cut it to 28-14, the Terps hit three pointers on four of the next five possession, which highlighted a 13-2 run to extend the lead to 41-16. The next 24 minutes were a formality, as Maryland coasted to victory.
It was as complete of a half as Maryland has played against a Power 5 opponent this season, and it shows where the Terps could go by the end of the season. Frese said she was most impressed with the effort on defense.
“It shows you it’s exciting for our potential,” she said. “It’s an area as we’ve been showing film and in our pregame talk we really wanted to put the emphasis there.
“You see, when we lock in we’re pretty good. When we lock out we’re really bad.”
On Saturday, Maryland was locked in.