Third quarter dominance leads No. 8 Maryland past Illinois

By Brandon Alter
Special to The Sports Pulse

The Maryland women’s basketball team battled back from a double-digit deficit to tie the game late in the third quarter Sunday afternoon.

With a chance to take their first lead since midway through the first quarter, the Terrapins took over. Abby Meyers corralled an offensive rebound, went right back up, and used the glass to convert a layup through contact to give Maryland a lead.

The No. 8 Terrapins (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten) never looked back on their way to an 82-71 win.

“She was really, really good in that third quarter,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said of Meyers. “[She] just gave us that boost of energy and confidence.”

The three-point play was part of a dominant quarter that saw the Terps outscore the Fighting Illini 31-8 and a 13-2 run.

Momentum began to shift on the first play of the second half. Diamond Miller beat a defender at the top of the key, split a double team in the paint, and converted a layup through contact. The play rejuvenated the Terrapins as they imposed their will for the final 20 minutes.

“Those and-ones are going to get us going every time,” Faith Masonius said. “…The push we needed came at the perfect time.”

Meyers finished with 18 points, 14 of which came in the third quarter, second to Miller’s 31 points. Miller’s 31 is one shy of her career-high. Miller also finished with nine rebounds and four assists. Shyanne Sellers was the only other Terp in double figures with 13.

Miller said that part of her success came from finding the gaps in the Illinois zone and keep attacking those gaps.

The dominance in the third quarter resulted from Maryland upping the intensity of its press, as they forced 10 Illinois turnovers in the quarter, leading to 17 points the other way.

“We got our hands big, and that kind of upped our energy,” Masonius said. “We realized once we press, we have that pressure, we’re long. We can get those steals and get wide-open layups. It can be that easy.”

Maryland scored 24 points in the paint in the third quarter after just 20 in the first half. With 10 minutes left, Maryland had turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a 59-45 lead.

The fourth quarter was relatively even. Illinois had cut the lead to 10 with three minutes left but couldn’t get any closer. Then, in the final minutes, Frese subbed out her seniors, Miller, Meyers, Masonius and Elisa Pinzan, who all received standing ovations.

Feb. 05, 2023: Maryland Terrapins guard Diamond Miller (1) reacts during a Big Ten women’s basketball game at Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland. (Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse).

The first half was a stark contrast to the second half.

Maryland had no answer defensively for Illinois’ 3-point shooting. The Fighting Illini capitalized on the open shots making their first five attempts from beyond the arc, and finished 8 of 12 in the first half.

Coming into the contest, the Fighting Illini had shot just 37.2% on 3-pointers this season. Against Maryland, Illinois finished 12 of 22 on 3-pointers. The lights-out shooting in the opening half put the visitors up 37-28 at the break.

Miller said that the energy in the opening half wasn’t where it was expected to be.

“I think we all pretty much felt it,” Miller said. “That’s what we need to work on as a team. Flipping the switch a little more quicker [sic] than we do. At halftime, we definitely needed to regroup, and I think halftime came at a good time.”

One thing that stayed the same in the second half was Maryland’s inability to hit a 3-pointer. The Terrapins finished 0 for 17 from beyond the arc but still found a way to win. With just three games remaining in the regular season, including rematches with No. 5 Iowa and No. 13 Ohio State, the Terrapins will need to be versatile to find results.

“You have to find ways to win that are going to be different,” Frese said. “I think for us to have a night like this — I don’t recall a team not being able to hit a three — but, on the same end, I don’t know if I’ve had a team shoot free throws as well as this team. To go up and be 100% (Maryland was 16 of 16 from the line) in a game.

“So those have always been our most successful teams in the past when you can challenge them to win in different ways, and they’re not married to winning just one way. I think that bodes really well for this team.”

Feature photo by Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse

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