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Maryland women’s basketball pulls away in 4th quarter for 77-61 win over Penn State

The No. 4 Terps scored the game’s last 18 points to win by 16.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Maryland at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team was bested through the first 30 minutes of Big Ten play on Friday night, but a strong fourth quarter vaulted the Terrapins to a 77-61 win over Penn State.

Maryland trailed 57-56 through three quarters, but after going down two points early in the final period, the Terps scored the game’s last 18 points in the final 8:49. They outscored Penn State 21-4 in the fourth quarter, turning a close game into a convincing win.

In the toughest games of the season, Maryland has turned to its leading scorer to carry the offense and the team to victory. Junior Kaila Charles stepped up in a big way, leading the team with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, and she also added six rebounds and two steals.

Joining Charles at the top of the box score were the duo who have been there all season long. Stephanie Jones was devastating in the interior for Maryland, who controlled the paint when it mattered most. The junior scored 17 points on an efficient 64 percent shooting, adding both quantity and quality to the team’s offensive looks. Freshman Taylor Mikesell had another quality game in her Big Ten debut. She scored 13 points on the night while adding three assists and a pair of three-pointers.

The Terrapins had a hard time stopping Penn State’s top scorers, specifically Teniya Page. The junior was given free rein for most of the game, hitting all seven of her field goals inside the arc. And in adding a trio of threes, Page paced the game in scoring with 24 points. Kamaria McDaniel was also tough to contain, as the sophomore followed with 16 points of her own.

When Maryland jumped out to a 15-8 after the first five-plus minutes of action, it seemed as though the game had the makings of a rout. Charles scored six quick points in the paint, Jones added four of her own, and the Terps were dominating inside. But thanks to quality shooting from the Lady Lions, the Terps weren’t able to extend their lead. In fact, Penn State went on a 13-3 run to close the first quarter out with a lead, and Maryland seemed lost in the closing minutes.

Penn State’s run continued into the following period, as the offense found success in the paint and at the charity stripe with ease. After three minutes, the Lady Lions held a 28-21 lead. As expected, Maryland found its footing as the quarter wore on. Mikesell scored seven points in less than two minutes, and all of a sudden, the game was tied at 30. After some back and forth that saw the Terrapins jump out to their first lead in over ten minutes, the teams went into the halftime break with the hosts winning 41-39.

When the Terps have fallen behind this season early on, the second half has been kind to them without fail. But for those who expected Maryland to come out and retake control in the third quarter, that simply did not happen. The Lady Lions led for over eight minutes in the quarter, including the final six minutes of action. As the Terrapins scored, Penn State matched them at every turn. Page led the way for the home team, as the senior scored nine points in the third period alone.

It took until the final quarter, but in the fourth period, Maryland finally pulled away. The defense held strong, allowing Penn State to score just four points through the first seven minutes while the Terps scored 15 of their own. After getting out to a 10-point lead late, the game got out of hand quickly for the Lady Lions.

Three things to know

1. Maryland put itself in danger. As the Terrapins have done all season, they eventually pulled away late to keep their undefeated season intact. However, this was the closest they’ve came to losing their first game of the season. A talented, hungry Penn State team took Maryland to the brink, and while an eight-day layoff could explain some of the defensive woes, the No. 4 team in the nation looked far from it on Friday night.

2. The fourth quarter was dominant. After trailing 57-56 through 30 minutes of action, the Terrapins put on a final period for the ages. On offense, Maryland scored 21 points, its highest quarter output of the game. But after struggling to stop the Lady Lions earlier, the defense came alive late. Penn State managed to score just four points in the final ten minutes, and Maryland closed the game on a 21-2 run.

3. Shakira Austin missed the final 18 minutes. The freshman seemed to roll an ankle in the second quarter, but finished the period and began the second half on the court. However, after an illegal screen at the 8:28 mark of the third, Brenda Frese pulled the budding star and placed her on the sidelines. Austin never entered the game after that sitting, and it’s unclear whether it was due to injury or general ineffectiveness. Before leaving, Austin had five points on three shots with 11 rebounds, three turnovers, two fouls and one block.