Shyanne Sellers had the ball on the baseline, ready to inbound, with a minute left in the first half. She cleverly threw the ball off of Makira Cook’s back, collected it, and made an easy layup to push Maryland’s lead to 14 points.
This play signified the kind of confidence that the Terps played with all night. Maryland defeated Illinois 73-58 in a comfortable victory to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
“I was excited for Shy, that was a play that she did when we recruited her in high school in AAU. That told me that she was in her bag and she was playing with confidence,” Coach Brenda Frese said.
The Terps found great success sharing the ball and distributing it among their many offensive weapons. Six Maryland players finished with eight points or more.
The Terps had a positive two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio fueled by a seven-assist day from Sellers.
Diamond Miller didn’t have the flashiest night but she played extremely solid, doing the little things right. Miller scored 14 points, collected nine rebounds, had five assists, and didn’t turn the ball over.
“I thought this was one of Diamond’s most flawless games, five assists, no turnovers, and her defense,” Frese said.
Abby Meyers contributed another efficient 14-point game, shooting 7 of 13 from the field.
“I think you have to continue to be versatile, especially as you get later into the season. I just try and be as unpredictable as possible. I try to keep my offensive game fresh,” Meyers said.
Maryland’s depth was on full display, while the Fighting Illini’s lack of depth, partially due to injury, made it difficult for them to find consistent offense. The Terps outscored Illinois 28-0 in bench points.
Bri McDaniel once again brought defensive intensity off the bench and also scored nine points.
“I thought it was a very contagious energy that she was able to provide for us off the bench. Bri was just fearless tonight,” Frese said.
“Defense wins games. So we come in and have our defense set the tone because once we get the defense rolling, everybody starts clicking,” McDaniel said.
The Terps only grabbed one more offensive rebound than Illinois, but they made the most of their chances, outscoring the Illini 22-10 in second-chance points.
Illinois relied on the duo of Cook (19 points) and Genesis Bryant (17 points) offensively. The Illini shot themselves in the foot with 16 turnovers, most of them coming in half-court sets.
The first quarter was a close affair but Illinois found themselves with a 16-11 lead towards the end of the quarter.
Maryland then proceeded to explode in a 30-9 run to close out the half.
The Terps found their stride in the second quarter, outscoring the Illini 21-7.
Maryland took a 41-25 lead into the half, the largest of the game so far.
The Illini battled in the second half and kept the Terps from building a larger lead, but they were unable to mount a comeback attempt. Every time Illinois seemed to have some momentum, Maryland responded with a big play to thwart them.
By the time the game reached the fourth quarter, Maryland was in a comfortable spot to ease to a victory.
The Terps will face Iowa for the third time this season on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. They split the regular season series with both teams winning on their home court.
“It’s gonna be a heck of a battle. Both teams will be ready to play from the tip,” Frese said.