With just under 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter, junior Shyanne Sellers dribbled past halfcourt before receiving a perimeter screen from redshirt junior Allie Kubek. In a flash, Sellers crossed over left, then pivoted back right to fire a pass back to Kubek, who proceeded to drain the pick-and-pop triple.
The bucket capped an 11-4 Terps’ run and gave Kubek her ninth straight point, providing an early momentum boost that would carry throughout, as No. 20 Maryland bounced back to pick up a narrow 83-81 victory over Syracuse.
An early offensive battle ensued in the opening minutes prior to Kubek’s run, as both teams traded baskets. Even without an apparent size advantage, the Orange dominated in the paint, with constant post-ups and layups from junior Georgia Woolley and freshman Alyssa Latham.
This past week, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese stressed the importance of “finding additional players to be able to help score the basketball.”
The Terps did just that throughout the first quarter, taking advantage of missed shots on the other end to hold a 11-4 rebounding advantage and convert on important second-chance baskets from Lavender Briggs, Jakia Brown-Turner, Brinae Alexander, and Kubek. As the first quarter buzzer sounded, six players were on the board and in the scoring column.
“When you can get four or five players averaging double figures, you’ve got a chance to win games,” Frese said. “So [I] love the response off the bench…and the offensive distribution [today] was key.”
The second quarter speed proved to be consistent – as the fast-paced, back-and-forth style gradually resulted in out of control plays and a combined nine turnovers in the period alone between the two teams.
Then, with two seconds left in the half, Sellers went on the attack. In one swift motion, the junior guard accelerated into the right lane before driving baseline and executing on a crafty left-handed, sidestepping, and-one layup just as time expired. The shifty bucket and free throw brought Maryland to within three heading into halftime.
Kubek’s strong performance continued throughout the third quarter. After subbing in with seven and a half minutes left in the period, the junior forward made an immediate impact by scoring another ten points – all off layups, with four of the five coming off Syracuse turnovers – to bring her total to 19 (and counting) on the day.
“I think a big thing is boxing out and rebounding,” emphasized Kubek. “[It’s just] about being able to be in the right place at the right time.”
The scoring momentum carried to the rest of the team to begin the fourth quarter, as the Terps proceeded to execute a near-flawless three and a half minute span offensively, in which the home team led a 10-2 run – courtesy of a handful of jumpers, layups, and free throws from Sellers, Bri McDaniel, and Briggs – to gain some separation and take a late 71-64 lead.
Another offensive rebound and second-chance layup by Kubek extended Maryland’s lead and provided the team with a season-high 41 total rebounds, but a clutch three-pointer by Syracuse’s Alaina Rice just moments later brought the score to within two with just over 20 seconds remaining.
Though the Terps had possession, a late lost-ball turnover on the baseline by Brown-Turner would give the Orange the ball right back with ten seconds to play. But in an incredible defensive effort, McDaniel then pressured Rice to secure the last-minute steal and win as the clock ran out.
“I tried to [maintain] high pressure,” said McDaniel. “I came in ready to disrupt…[and to just] be the person that the team depends on. I wanted to make a play.”
With the victory, Maryland moves to 2-2 on the season and extends its all-time series lead over Syracuse to 6-0.
The Terps now look ahead to this week’s Cancun Challenge, where they’ll travel to the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico to play three games in three consecutive days – first beginning this Thanksgiving Thursday in an early morning, 11:00 a.m. ranked matchup against No. 24 Washington State (4-0).