Three days after demolishing Ohio State, Maryland women’s basketball gutted out a 68-65 win Thursday at Northwestern.
The No. 14 Terps followed a tale as old as time in sports, almost suffering a letdown after an emotional win. Kaila Charles led the team with 17 points, but 11 came in the first quarter. She picked up two fouls in the first eight minutes and was never able to get into the flow of the game when she returned in the second half.
Both teams had solid shooting nights, but the Wildcats were more consistent than Maryland. Northwestern shot 51 percent from the field, while Maryland shot 46 percent was plagued with long scoring droughts.
Silver Spring native Lindsey Pulliam led the Wildcats with 19 points, and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Northwestern would’ve had a much better chance to win if they had taken better care of the ball. The Wildcats committed 22 turnovers, and the Terps scored 22 points off their miscues.
Eleanna Christinaki had another solid game with 15 points, but it was Brianna Fraser who gave the team a boost down the stretch. The junior scored six straight points in the last four minutes and finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Both teams couldn’t miss in the first quarter, with Maryland shooting 66.7 percent from the field and Northwestern doing even better at 72.7 percent. The Wildcats had no trouble breaking the Terps press early, which led to a lot of easy looks. The Terps were still able to control the tempo with ease, pushing up and down the court and looking ready to pull away by the end of the quarter. The Wildcats had no answer for Charles, who scored 11 points in under seven minutes. But with 1:34 left in the first quarter, Charles picked up her second foul and sat for rest of the half.
The game grinded to a halt after that. After a jumper from Christinaki gave Maryland a 26-20 lead, the Terps didn’t score for another five minutes. Maryland led 26-23 at the end of the first quarter, and the score was just 30-29 at the under-5 timeout of the second quarter.
Northwestern controlled down the boards and slowed down the tempo to start the quarter, which limited Maryland’s opportunities on the offensive end. A layup from Kunaiyi-Akpanah gave the Wildcats a 31-30 lead with 4:30 to go in the first half. The Terps closed the half on an 11-2 run, with six points coming off turnovers.
Christinaki hit a jumper to extend the lead to 47-35, with 7:58 to go in the third quarter, and at the time it was hard to imagine that would be the last basket Maryland would hit for over 11 minutes. The Terps missed their last 11 shots to end the quarter, as well as some opportunities at the foul line. They went 5-for-8 from the charity stripe during the drought, and still led 52-47 at the end of the third quarter.
Pulliam tied the game at 52 on a free throw with 7:54 to go, but Fraser answered with two free throws on the next possession to take the lead. Oceana Hamilton hit her first shot of the game to tie it at 54, and Stephanie Jones finally ended the drought with a layup to retake the lead.
Christinaki had a nice left-handed finish to push the lead to four, but the Wildcats wouldn’t go away and tied it at 60 with with 3:25 to go. Fraser took over after that, hitting a free throw with 3:02 left, a layup on Maryland’s next possession, and then converted a timely three-point play with 28.5 seconds left to give the Terps a 66-61 lead.
Pulliam turned it over on the next possession, seemingly icing the game, but Fraser didn’t throw a strong enough pass to Channise Lewis following the turnover, and it was picked off by Kunaiyi-Akpanah to cut the lead to 66-63 with 11 seconds left. Lewis had enough time to run the clock down a few seconds and pass to Confroy who was fouled. The senior officially put the game away by hitting two free throws with four seconds left.
Maryland has one week off before it welcomes Rutgers to the Xfinity Center on Feb. 1.
Three things to know
- This was a sloppy game. Some of the film from this game should never be watched again. Maryland and Northwestern combined for 38 turnovers, which made the game incredibly choppy. Every team plays a clunker once in a while, and tonight it was Maryland’s turn.
- Brianna Fraser gave the Terps offense when they needed it the most. When Maryland has needed a big bucket this season, it’s usually turned to Charles. But with the sophomore guard on the bench Thursday, the junior from Brooklyn took over. It wasn’t Fraser’s best game, as she fouled out and committed five turnovers, but the Terps wouldn’t have won without her.
- Free throws are still an issue. This could have been a less stressful night if Maryland hadn’t shot 16-of-25 from the foul line. It hasn’t cost the Terps a game yet, but it’s only a matter of time before it does.