In a game where No. 17 Maryland had multiple opportunities to pull away from Fordham, the Terps closed out the game with a strong fourth quarter, defeating a pesky Rams side 83-76 on Sunday afternoon at the Xfinity Center.
It was a back-and-forth affair for the Terps in what head coach Brenda Frese and senior guard Diamond Miller described as an “ugly” win. The Terps led by double-digits in the second and third quarters only to lead by three heading into the final 10 minutes. Despite Fordham’s valiant comeback attempts, the Terps stepped up on both sides of the ball.
“It shows how resilient we are,” Miller, who grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, said. “We stayed composed and trusted our offense and defense to help us get this ugly win.”
In the opening 10 minutes, it looked as if the Terps were on their way to a double-digit win. Maryland’s high-powered offense and zone defense helped give them an early double-digit lead.
“We were ready to set the tone and punch first,” Frese said. “It’s something that we talked about.”
The Terps jumped out to a 10-0 run midway through the quarter and held the Rams to 4 of 17 shooting, including 1 of 9 from beyond the arc. The Terps’ defense strengthened throughout the quarter as they held Fordham to zero field goals inside the last 3:30 of the quarter. After 10 minutes, the Terps led 21-11 and led by as many as 14 in the second quarter.
“We get a lot more aggressive whenever we can get those stops,” Frese said. “We were able to make a lot of easy plays [for the offense] but defensively we were locked in.”
After a timeout from Fordham interim head coach Candice Green, the Rams’ shooters caught fire. The team responded with a 14-2 run and cut Maryland’s lead to two. Team captain and four-year starter Anna DeWolfe engineered the Rams’ comeback, adding 11 in the quarter to pull the Rams within one at the half. With DeWolfe on the court for nearly the entire quarter, the Rams outscored Maryland by 12.
The Preseason First-Team All-Conference player led all scorers with a season-high 24 points and four threes, causing the Maryland defense headaches all afternoon.
“We were so good with the scout [team] the other night, and I think this scout took it a little too lightly,” Frese said. “They [Fordham] made us pay anytime there was a breakdown on the defensive end or a bad shot on the offensive end.”
In what was a problem in the Terps’ blowout loss to South Carolina, the Terps struggled to grab offensive rebounds in the second quarter. The Terps failed to secure an offensive rebound while Fordham tallied six.
“I thought they just had a hungrier mentality,” Frese said. “They [Fordham] were flying around, going to get those hustle plays.”
The Terps appeared to pull away for good in the opening minutes of the second half. After two free throws from Miller, a second-chance layup from Faith Masonius, and a 3-pointer from senior Brinae Alexander, the Terps increased its lead to eight in less than a minute’s time.
The momentum continued for the Terps following a Fordham timeout. Back-to-back fast break buckets and an Alexander three from the point ran the Terps’ lead up to 54-39, their largest of the game, as part of a 14-0 third-quarter run.
After it looked as if the Terps would run away with the victory, the Rams rallied again. A three-minute, 14-point run of its own, thanks to four consecutive threes, cut Maryland’s lead to 56-53.
With less than a minute left in the third, Fordham took its first lead since the opening minute of the game. A 20-4 run had silenced the Xfinity Center crowd and left the Fordham bench in a wild celebration. Fordham’s Green was pleased with her team’s response to Maryland’s scoring runs.
“I think they punched us about three good times where they went on 10-0 runs, 10-2 runs, 11 points,” Green said. “I thought we did a really good job of going ‘alright, deep breaths, what do we need to do to respond?’”
But Miller and the Terps countered. The two-time All-Big Ten guard sank a three as time expired in the quarter to give the lead back to Maryland.
“We needed her,” Alexander said.
After missing Friday’s contest with a knee injury, Miller scored 22 points, posted her first double-double of the season, and went 13-14 from the free-throw line.
With the Terps lead at five with five minutes left in the fourth, an 8-2 Maryland run sealed the game for the nation’s 17th-ranked team as the Terps held on for an 83-76 victory.
The Terps’ ability to contain DeWolfe in the fourth quarter played a large role in its success over the final 10 minutes. The All-Metro player was held to two points and Fordham was outscored by five with the senior on the floor.
With the win, Maryland moves to 2-1 on the season, while the loss drops Fordham to 2-1.
The Terps host another Atlantic 10 opponent in Davidson on Wednesday morning.