By Aiden Currie
Just two minutes into the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game between Maryland and Rutgers, Bri McDaniel was running back on defense. when she noticed a wide-open Jillian Huerter standing in the corner. Instead of racing to block a potential three-point attempt from Huerter, McDaniel looked towards the ball handler, and in the nick of time, reached out to intercept the pass with her left hand.
Without taking a dribble, McDaniel pivoted and fired a Mahomes-esque pass to a streaking Shyanne Sellers. The deep ball hit Sellers in stride allowing the junior to race to the basket, before pump-faking her defender, and calmly finishing the wide-open layup.
The McDaniel to Sellers layup capped off a 7-0 run that allowed the Terps to establish some breathing room as they carried a lead into the second half. The run later proved vital, as Maryland eventually sealed a 67-59 victory by staving off a Rutgers comeback attempt down the stretch.
“[When we’re] not playing on your home court, we have to bring our own energy,” said Sellers. “We always have to be ten points better on the road. We were that for a while, and then we … fell out of it towards the end.”
To put it simply, Maryland came into Tuesday night’s game desperate for a win, and that’s exactly what the Terps showed – defensively at least – throughout the first 10 minutes. In a cagey opening quarter, Maryland managed to force six turnovers out of Rutgers, with all six coming from different Scarlet Knights.
Maryland wasn’t without its offensive struggles though. With just over 4 minutes to play in the first quarter, the Terps had an offensive possession that began with a Brinae Alexander airball from a corner three; her miss was grabbed by Faith Masonius, who then put up a layup that caught very little rim; Allie Kubek grabbed the second miss before putting up a layup of her own, which clanked off the rim and into the hands of a Scarlet Knight. The wild sequence was part of an opening eight minutes that saw the Terps shoot a lowly 3-16.
“I felt like we were getting good shots for the most part,” said Sellers. “I felt like we did a good job of just fighting through the bad [offensive stretches], and just playing through it.”
While the Maryland offense didn’t see any one player shine, the team as a whole came together to grind out a 37-point first half, headlined by the fact that all eight Terps who touched the floor, scored. But despite the unique feat, no Terp scored in double digits during the opening 20.
“I thought we settled for too many threes in the first half, especially in that second quarter,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. The Terps attempted 11 3-pointers in the first half, an unusually high mark for a team that attempts just over 16 per game.
As for the Scarlet Knights, their first half – from an offensive standpoint – was the polar opposite. Rutgers got their 28 first-half points from just four scorers, the most notable of which was Destiny Adams. The junior only shot 3-6 from the field, but got to the line four times and converted on five of her eight free throws, to almost single-handedly keep the Scarlet Knights in the game. She would later finish with 22 points and eight rebounds to lead Rutgers in both.
Despite the Jekyll and Hyde offense, Maryland managed to keep control of the game by stealing extra possessions. The Terps had struggled with offensive rebounding the entire season but on Tuesday night, they secured an unusually high 25. Allie Kubek led the team with six, which was also half of Rutgers’ offensive rebounding total for the entire game.
“I thought we were a lot more aggressive on the glass, which we need to be,” said Frese. “It gave us those extra opportunities, especially since [Rutgers] wanted to take the air out of the ball and have fewer possessions in the game.”
Maryland carried a 54-41 lead into the final quarter of play, but in a season that’s seen multiple second-half leads slip away, the game wasn’t necessarily over.
“We knew that Rutgers … [are] good at home so we [knew] we had to lock in,” said Jakia Brown-Turner. “They were getting a couple stops so we had to just make sure that we stayed poised.”
After failing to score in the first three quarters Jillian Huerter came alive in the fourth for the Scarlet Knights, hitting three 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 10 with just under five minutes to play. To make matters even worse, the Terps went cold.
“I thought our legs were tired [in the fourth quarter],” said Frese. “You see us missing free throws and layups, [and that’s] uncharacteristic of us. I think those were more fatigue-based than anything.”
With practically no momentum it looked as if the Terps may drop another heartbreaker on the road. Bri Mcdaniel however, had other ideas. Inside the final minute and forty seconds, the sophomore managed to get to the line three times and converted on four of her six attempts to give Maryland just enough breathing room, as they closed out a much-needed win.
“We’re a great team,” said Brown-Turner. Just finishing off these wins, playing hard, and doing the little things, it’s what shows.”
While the Terps definitely didn’t manage their cleanest offensive game of the season they still had three players post double-digit scoring totals: Sellers (16), McDaniel (14), and Brown-Turner (11). Brown-Turner also added 10 rebounds to record her third double-double of the season.
Tuesday night’s victory snaps Maryland’s four-game losing streak and is just the Terps’ second road win of the entire season (the other coming at Minnesota on Jan. 3rd).
“We’re happy to get a road win. They’re really tough,” said Frese. “A lot of teams have come in here and only won by six [points], and [there’s] a lot of great teams in [this] conference.”
Next up, Maryland will travel west to take on Illinois (10-11, 4-7) at 3 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday. The Terps already defeated the Fighting Illini once this season in a highly offensive game that finished 90-82.