Maryland women's basketball knocked off Northwestern by a 79-70 final score on Sunday afternoon, as the Terps beat the Wildcats for the second time this season.
It wasn't as easy of a win as it should have been, however. The No. 7 Terps sprinted out of the gate, but were generally outplayed for the final three quarters. As has been the case far too often this season, turnovers kept the opposition in the game. Maryland gave the ball away 22 times, and also gave up 17 offensive rebounds. When you give a talented opponent that many chances, they'll capitalize.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough led the way with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. She was 10-of-15 from the field and 3-of-4 from downtown, and single-handedly outscored Northwestern 22-18 in the first half before cooling off (and possibly suffering an injury) in the last 20 minutes. Tierney Pfirman and Brionna Jones notched 15 and 14, respectively. Northwestern was led by senior Maggie Lyon's 25 points. Junior Nia Coffey missed her first 9 shots but finished with 15 points and 11 boards before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Junior Christen Inman added 15 points, as well.
Maryland scored the game's first 14 points and outscored the Wildcats 25 to 5 in the opening quarter. Northwestern had a shooting quarter from hell, making only 1 of 19 field goals. The Wildcats were held scoreless for the first five minutes of the game. As if it couldn't get worse, star junior Nia Coffey picked up two fouls in that time. Walker-Kimbrough led Maryland with 11 points, while Pfirman and Jones chipped in 7 and 6, respectively.
The Terps only scored 11 points in the second quarter, and Walker-Kimbrough had all of them. Northwestern had a much better frame (it would have been just about impossible not to), outscoring Maryland by 2 points. A Walker-Kimbrough three-pointer just before the buzzer brought the Terps' lead to 36-18 at halftime.
Maryland's lead rose to 24 early in the third, but the Wildcats finally caught fire. A 15-0 run brought Northwestern within 9 points halfway through the period. It was the first time the team had been within single digits since the very start of the contest. The run was largely brought about by Maryland turnovers, which allowed the Wildcats to get in transition. The Terps gathered themselves, with Tierney Pfirman emerging as the go-to offensive threat, but they couldn't put Northwestern away, as a late spurt brought it to 56-46 after a roller coaster of a quarter.
Brene Moseley came alive at the start of the fourth quarter. She sunk two free throws and two layups in the first couple minutes of the period. It was a stark departure from her 0-for-10 skid from the field in her previous seven quarters. The Terps caught a break when Coffey picked up her fifth foul with 6:14 remaining, but Northwestern's surge continued as the deficit shrunk to 65-60, prompting a Brenda Frese timeout.
Down the stretch, Maryland focused all its energy on getting the ball to Jones and Malina Howard in the post. That strategy brought the lead back up to 11 points. After a Christen Inman three cut it to 8 with 1:25 to play, the Wildcats started fouling to extend the game, but Maryland was just efficient enough at the line to avoid true danger.
The Terps are now 23-3 overall and 12-2 in conference play. Their next game will be Wednesday night at home against a feisty Michigan team.
3 things to know
1. The Terps were too charitable with the ball again. There are only so many ways to describe a turnover problem. Maryland had 24 in this game, which brings the total to 67 for the week. Walker-Kimbrough and Jones had 5 giveaways apiece. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Ashley Deary had 4 and 3 steals for the Wildcats, repectively.
2. Walker-Kimbrough slowed down in the second half. After a 22-point explosion in the first half, the junior only took 3 shots and scored 5 points in the second half. She was noticably limping at certain points despite remaining on the floor for a good portion of the last two quarters. She was on the bench in the final minutes.
3. Northwestern's self-destruction continues. After upsetting Ohio State at home on Jan. 14, the Wildcats are 1-8. This skid has been characterized by agonizing losses, including a double-overtime defeat at the hands of Minnesota a week ago when Rachel Banham scored 60 points. They're clearly a talented team; they gave Maryland all they had and outplayed them for the final 30 minutes. But at 3-11 in conference play, it's unlikely they will return to the NCAA tournament this season after being ranked as high as No. 12 in the polls at one point.