With just under three minutes remaining in the first half, Bri McDaniel jumped up to snatch a defensive rebound. In a flash, McDaniel accelerated up court, spinning around and crossing over a pair of defenders before firing a shovel pass to Lavender Briggs. In one swift motion, Briggs pump faked, then banked in an uncontested layup.
“My mindset is to leave everything on the court,” stressed Briggs after her second successful game back from an early-season injury. “I’ve [been] injured, so it’s not fun to sit there and watch…I knew [that] when I came back, I was going to give it a 100% effort.”
The fast-break basket by Briggs sparked a 9-2 Terps’ run that proved crucial in extending their lead into the half and beyond – fueling Maryland to a 72-64 win over Minnesota.
The Gophers opened the game strong both on the glass and in the paint, picking up 12 first-quarter rebounds and near double-digit paint points (8).
On the other end, the Terps focused on scores from beyond the arc, and they were highly successful in doing so. Five early Maryland three-pointers – one by Shyanne Sellers; one by Briggs; three by Allie Kubek – narrowed Minnesota’s lead to just three at the end of the first quarter.
“I wanted to make a statement,” emphasized head coach Brenda Frese on the increased triple attempts and play calls from outside the perimeter. “…When you have a big like Allie, and [when] you can shoot the ball so well…it opens up the offense for us.”
With both defenses playing at an elite level, scoring came at a minimum to begin the second period. Finding themselves with limited room on the perimeter due to increased Minnesota pressure, Maryland found other ways to score. The Terps capitalized on drawing fouls and seeking close, high-level shots right at the basket – resulting in four easy points off free throws (all of which by McDaniel) and 14 second-quarter points in the paint.
“[We] made good reads…not taking a good shot, [but] taking great shots,” Sellers said. “I think that’s what we did all night and that’s what made us successful.”
Maryland gradually extended its lead coming out of the break – courtesy of a variety of timely buckets from Brinae Alexander. But it was the Terps’ defense that continued to stand out, as swarming perimeter pressure from Sellers, McDaniel, and Briggs in both the frontcourt and backcourt resulted in six third-quarter Gopher turnovers (including a sequence of back-to-back shot clock violations).
“We were speeding [Minnesota] up and trapping them…taking away that extra pass,” said Sellers. “We got [those] turnovers, which led to us getting points in transition.”
A second-chance offensive rebound and putback layup by Faith Masonius extended Maryland’s lead to as much as 11 to begin the fourth quarter; however, Minnesota put up a late fight. With a strong continued effort on the glass – followed by easy buckets and free throws from Mara Braun and Mallory Heyer – the Gophers inched their way back to within five points late in the game.
But with just over a minute remaining, the Terps were able to steer away from the danger zone – widening the margin yet again off of a handful of free throw opportunities and long possessions that drained the clock, effectively icing the game.
With the victory, Maryland moves to 10-4 on the season (with a 2-1 record in Big Ten play), while maintaining a dominant 14-1 all-time series lead over Minnesota.
“[Our] mentality really…frustrated [Minnesota],” stressed Frese. “We were really locked in and connected as a unit…[as a result], we were able to be very disruptive.”
The Terps now head back to College Park, looking to capitalize once more in a home matchup this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against Purdue (9-5).