Just over two minutes into the game, junior guard Shyanne Sellers raced to the perimeter and into the passing lane. In an incredible effort, Sellers used one hand to intercept a pass before accelerating down court to find sophomore Bri McDaniel for a crafty fast break basket.
The steal and transition layup provided the Terps with an offensive spark that carried throughout the first quarter and beyond, as Maryland held strong to deliver a 71-58 win over Northwestern in its Big Ten opener.
Others stepped up in the wake of McDaniel’s bucket, with seven players on the scoring sheet after 10 early minutes of play. Timely shots across the board from Sellers, Emily Fisher, Faith Masonius, Allie Kubek, Jakia Brown-Turner, and Brinae Alexander extended the Terps’ lead to seven as the first-quarter buzzer sounded.
Even through slight difficulties shooting the ball, Maryland still found ways to get points on the board. In a 20 second span late into the second quarter, the Terps scored four quick points – from Kubek and Masonius – off of free throw opportunities alone.
“Getting to the free throw line is important,” said Brown-Turner. “It shows that we’re aggressive…and [it results in] easy points. So we just always want to be the aggressor.”
Then, with just seconds remaining in the half, the Terps’ offense finally found their footing.
Standing in a triple threat position on the left wing, Riley Nelson assessed the Wildcats’ defense before making her move. With four seconds – and counting – left on the clock, the freshman guard took two strong pound dribbles into the lane, and then pivoted around to fire a pass out to Sellers. Standing far beyond the three-point line, Sellers collected the pass and heaved up a high-arcing, buzzer-beating triple that splashed through the net – putting the home team back up by three points at the half.
The defensive and offensive momentum continued throughout the third quarter, as Maryland came out of the half strong on both sides of the ball – scoring eight straight unanswered points before eventually limiting Northwestern to just six total points in the entire period.
“Defensively, our energy and effort…you could see ball pressure, and I thought we got a lot more aggressive,” emphasized head coach Brenda Frese. “[Just] making it difficult for Northwestern to run offense…definitely a mentality that I thought we were able to switch after halftime.”
The Terps’ extended their lead to double digits and beyond in the final minutes of the third quarter – thanks to two tough midair catch-and-shoot layups by Brown-Turner, bringing her total to nine points on the day.
“We definitely practice [those midair shots],” laughed Brown-Turner. “That’s why I felt so comfortable. Every time we go over plays and review, we always run that play.”
Maryland entered the fourth and final period in a comfortable spot, with a sizable 17 point lead over the Wildcats and some much needed breathing room. But the Terps didn’t stop there – further widening the gap to as much as 21 off of another coast-to-coast steal and layup by McDaniel.
A late 6-0 run for the WIldcats – courtesy of an array of jumpers from Caroline Lau and Casey Harter – would follow; but the damage had already been done, and the deficit proved too much to overcome for the road team.
The Terps’ fifth consecutive victory provides them with a 7-3 record on the season, while holding a dominating 14-1 all-time series lead over Northwestern.
“This is the best conference in the country,” Frese stressed. “There’s not going to be any easy nights within this league. Taking advantage of [our] home games as well as then once [we] go on the road are going to be really important to success.”
Maryland’s next chance to build on its win streak comes this Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. in an early morning, non-conference matchup against Towson (7-1).