With just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Maryland’s Shyanne Sellers walked the ball up court. Directing the offense, the star junior called for a high screen on the perimeter. Then, in a flash, Sellers utilized a well-placed Allie Kubek screen – accelerating to the right of it and stepping into a jumper that splashed through the net.
With the bucket, Sellers joined Kubek, Jakia Brown-Turner, and Lavender Briggs in double figures on the day. The second-half scoring variety proved crucial, as a fourth quarter boost from the Terps’ high-powered offense led Maryland to a dominant 69-53 road win over Illinois.
The Terps started out aggressive, with an immediate triplet of paint buckets from Bri McDaniel, Shyanne Sellers, and Jakia Brown-Turner.
Then came a dry spell, with Maryland unable to score a field goal for more than two straight minutes. A simultaneous 7-1 scoring run by the Fighting Illini tied the game up, and things stayed close throughout the remainder of the quarter.
The Terps’ excelled defensively to begin the second period, limiting Illinois to just four points through the first five minutes of the quarter.
“I felt like we were just communicating really well and walling up on defense,” stressed Briggs. “We were very active and moving together… we [focused on] making [Illinois] take tough shots and decisions.”
However, Maryland’s offense turned stagnant, as the Terps notched just two points through the exact same five minute span.
Just as signs pointed to a momentum switch, Allie Kubek took over. In a wild sequence, the Terps’ redshirt junior took the air out of the State Farm Center – first with a pure jumper off of an Illini turnover; then with a strong offensive rebound and quick second-chance layup.
After dropping a combined five points through the past two games (five against Rutgers; zero against No. 3 Iowa), Kubek’s six points through 17 minutes of play provided the forward with a much-needed confidence boost, and all of a sudden, Maryland found themselves up five and with some breathing room heading into the break.
“Allie came in and provided a lot of great things offensively, defensively, as well as rebounding [in that first half],” said head coach Brenda Frese. “We needed to have that from her…”
Both teams traded baskets to begin the second half, with Kubek single handedly keeping the Terps in it once more. The Terps continued to feed the hot hand, as four more points by Kubek – the first and only Terp in double figures – protected Maryland’s lead despite a timely 6-0 Illinois run, courtesy of an array of baskets from Adalia McKenzie, Shay Bollin, and Gretchen Dolan.
The Terps rank within the country’s top-10 in free throws made per game (16.52 on average). Through constant drives and attacks, Maryland stayed true to the numbers to close out the third quarter, finding itself with a multitude of charity stripe opportunities.
The Terps capitalized from the line, hitting four straight free throws (one by Sellers; three by Kubek) to extend their lead back up to seven heading into the 10-minute finale.
“In our huddle at the end of the third [quarter], we were talking about keep making strides, keep pushing, and don’t let up now,” stressed Sellers. “Obviously, [Illinois] is a great team…But that was just our mindset in the fourth quarter, to put our nose down, keep working, and extend the lead to as big as we could.”
The Terps did just that, as veteran play from Sellers and others sealed it for Maryland throughout the fourth quarter. First, an unanswered 9-0 Terps’ run to begin the final period – off key buckets from Faith Masonius, Sellers, and Briggs (15 pts.). Then, three more buckets from Sellers (18 pts, 11 reb.) served as the exclamation point, clinching a much-needed road win.
“Seeing three players with double-doubles, four in double figures…[just a] real balanced scoring attack,” emphasized Frese. “A lot of great toughness on the road for us.”
With the victory, the Terps improve to 14-10 on the season – inching closer back to .500 in the Big Ten standings (6-7 in conference play) ahead of a massive five-game regular season slate.
Maryland now has a week off before looking to win its third straight next Sunday at home (1:00 p.m.) against Penn State.
“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time,” said Sellers. “We’re coming together now and being more cohesive…this is a really hard-nosed Maryland team.”