By Nolan Demott
After suffering their first defeat of the season Thursday to the top-ranked UConn Huskies, the Terps started the new year on a positive note Sunday, defeating the Minnesota Gophers 83-72.
Coming out of the gate, the Terps built upon their fourth quarter performance against the Huskies with a dominating opening ten minutes against the Gophers. Brionna Jones, who finished the game with her fourth straight double-double, got Maryland off and running with the team’s first two baskets. She finished with a game-high 27 points and 13 rebounds in an impressive 29 minutes of play, which is now the norm for the senior.
But the primary part of Maryland’s first quarter success was the defense, which forced eight Minnesota turnovers in that quarter alone. Thanks to the tight defensive play paired with a 12-4 run toward the end of the first quarter, Maryland led 24-14 after one.
The second quarter, though, was a different story for the Terps. Maryland struggled mightily shooting the basketball in the second quarter, going only 7-21 from the field. Minnesota was able to slowly creep their way back into the game and only trailed by six at halftime.
And it didn’t get any easier for the Terps from that point. In fact, stating in the third and continuing into the fourth quarter, the Gophers were able to cut the Terps’ lead to fewer than three points on five separate occasions.
However, each time Minnesota got close, the Terps responded. On each of those five occasions, Maryland not only scored the next basket but also did it on their very next possession. Despite being pushed to the edge, the Terps never relinquished the lead. Maryland closed out the final six minutes of the game in similar fashion to the first quarter, and outscored Minnesota 15-5.
In addition to being Maryland’s first game of 2017, this was also their first matchup within the Big Ten. From here on out, the Terps’ competition will be solely Big Ten opponents. It is now more important than ever for Maryland to play well if they hope to capture the Big Ten championship. The next game for the Terps is Wednesday on the road against Nebraska.