Just minutes into the second half of play, No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball found itself on the verge of trailing by over 20 points against an unranked opponent.
Looking to back down from the high post, sophomore forward Shakira Austin had the ball swiped from behind by junior Wildcat guard Lindsey Pulliam, sparking a fast break.
She took it into the teeth of the Terp defense before kicking it out to senior forward Abi Scheid, who pulled up from way behind the three point line and sank it, stretching Northwestern’s lead to a seemingly insurmountable 21 points en route to an 81-58 defeat — Maryland’s worst loss this season.
Maryland went on to commit a season-high 24 turnovers, contributing to 29 points for Northwestern. The Terps shot just 31 percent (18-for-59) from the floor, while hitting 22 percent (4-for-18) of their shots from long range in their first Big Ten loss of the season.
“Northwestern was sensational, they punched first and they had a tremendous gameplan,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Disappointing for us, I don’t think we responded well on the road.”
Facing an opponent that ranked inside the top-20 in turnovers per game (12.3), the Terps deployed the same three-quarter court press that had given their past opponents fits. But the Wildcats withstood the initial pressure handily, dissecting Brenda Frese’s press time and time again to keep their offense in rhythm.
Committing just five first half turnovers, Northwestern set the tone on both ends of the floor. Using a 14-0 in the first quarter to get out to a quick double-digit lead, Maryland was forced to play from behind, a position its rarely has been in this season. Led by point guard Veronica Burton, the Wildcats slashed and gashed the Terps in the first 20 minutes to the tune of a 34-23 lead at the end of the first half.
Conversely, Maryland was repeatedly forced into mistakes in the early going. With Burton nabbing four swipes of her own, Northwestern forced the Terps into 15 first half turnovers — more than what they average for an entire game (14.2). Those 15 turnovers resulted in 15 points for the Wildcats, putting Maryland behind at the half for just the third time this season.
“[We] turned the ball over way too many times, and put ourselves in a difficult hole that we had to climb out of,” Frese said.
With time ticking down in the third quarter and the Wildcats lead back up to 24 points, senior guard Kaila Charles tried to force a pass into the corner and had it intercepted, setting Maryland’s new season-high for turnovers while further adding to the growing deficit.
Pressing for any kind of momentum shift that could contribute to a comeback, the Terps entered the final frame desperate for quick points. Looking to take it to the rack, freshman guard Ashley Owusu aggressively drove to the rim and collided with sophomore Wildcat guard Sydney Wood, drawing a charge call from the official to give Owusu her third foul of the game.
With four other Terps in foul trouble down the stretch as well and senior guard Blair Watson fouling out, Maryland simply wasn’t equipped for a late comeback in this one, especially since it couldn’t score for a stretch of over four minutes as the game winded down.
Three Things to Know
1. It was another clunker of a shooting performance for the Terps. Following a game in which the Terps shot just 2-for-11 on three-point attempts, Maryland continued to struggle to find its touch from deep. The typically sure-shooting of guards Taylor Mikesell and Blair Watson was missing once again on Tuesday night, with the duo combining to shoot just 3-for-13 from three while the Terps shot 4-for-18 collectively from deep.
2. The Terps dominated the boards, but it didn’t matter. Facing a team in Northwestern that struggles to rebound at a high level, Maryland came into this one with a massive advantage on paper. That translated to a 42-29 win on the boards for the Terps, one of their largest rebounding differentials of the season. But it ultimately didn’t translate to much of an impact on either end, as the Wildcats were able to do whatever they wanted offensively and defensively in spite of the rebounding deficit.
3. Maryland’s press finally looks mortal. Regardless of its opponent this season, the one constant in every Maryland game this season has been its ability to force turnovers. Forcing the likes of NC State and Michigan into 20+ turnover performances, Northwestern noticeably did its homework on the Terp press and navigated through it effectively, committing fewer turnovers than any other Maryland opponent this season with 13.