By Lila Bromberg
The 15th ranked Maryland Terrapins defeated Illinois 100-65 in the Big Ten opener for their 10th consecutive win.
Sophomore Kaila Charles was a major force for Maryland in the 35-point victory. Charles led the team in scoring and assists with 24 points on a 56 percent shooting percentage and six assists, as well as 10 rebounds.
“Kaila makes us go,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought she really took the game and what came to her, you know whether it was attacking of the rebounds [or] going to the rim. I thought she played a lot slower, kind understanding what the game was going to give to her…I love the six assists, only one turnover. She’s just so talented and can do a lot of things.”
Even though she had just seven points in the first half, sophomore Blair Watson exploded in the second half to end the game with 22 points. She also had five steals, eight rebounds and four assists on the night.
Three other players, sophomore Stephanie Jones, senior Ieshia Small and junior Brianna Fraser, also had scoring totals in the double digits, but defense was the story of the game early.
The Terrapins dominated the Fighting Illini from the start of the matchup with effective defense, maintaining a full court press for much of the first quarter.
“It’s something that we’ve been able to go to all season,” Frese said. “I think it really gets us going, our energy [and] we’re able to throw a lot of different looks…that really helps to jump start us to get us going.”
As the matchup continued, Maryland converted on their stellar defensive play to find its rhythm on offense as well.
The team converted 24 points off of turnovers and fast break points.
“Today we were just locking in our defense and trying to force turnovers and then score off of those turnovers by pushing the ball and just pushing tempo,” Kaila Charles said. “They like to slow the game a lot, so we wouldn’t let them dictate the game, we were trying to dictate it ourselves.”
And when they did miss shots, the Terrapins wouldn’t let those points slip away. The Terrapins had 24 offensive rebounds and effectively turned them into 18 second chance points.
“We go in with a mindset of being aggressive and boxing out, it’s a big part of Maryland basketball,” Brianna Fraser said.
Maryland also got a lot of its scoring off of fouls. Even with a low 62.5 percentage, the Terrapins had 20 points from the line, compared to eight by Illinois.
Now with a conference win under their belt, the Terps will travel to Penn State (9-5, 0-1) for another Big Ten matchup on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m.