When UMBC sprinted out of the half on a 10-2 run after Maryland women’s basketball had a 28-point lead at intermission Sunday, coach Brenda Frese burned a timeout as the Terps appeared to falter from half-to-half yet again.
Since trouncing then-No. 10 South Carolina, 85-61, on Nov. 18, Maryland has had three consecutive inconsistent offensive performances. And with a 1-for-5 start to the third quarter, the game against the Retrievers was following a similar track.
But the Terps didn’t allow the early blip to snowball, and they followed the UMBC run with a 20-3 blitz of their own to knock the Retrievers out of it for good. Maryland went on to dominate UMBC, 92-61, easily overcoming another inconsistent finish against an overmatched foe.
“Third quarter, obviously we need to improve. It was a slow start for us,” said Frese. “That’s an area we’ve got to be able to clean up, but I thought we played harder and were more aggressive.”
From the opening tip-off, the Terps showcased a balanced attack.
Just four minutes into the game, guard Kaila Charles finished in the paint to give the Terps a 13-3 lead, the fifth different player to score during the opening-game blitz. Frese pumped her fist and smiled in approval, as the overwhelmed Retrievers burned an early-game timeout to stop the bleeding, but it was to no avail.
Maryland extended its advantage to 21-5, and after a 16-2 run to start the second quarter, the game already felt like a blowout. The Terps shot 64.7 percent, working the ball inside frequently to establish a 58-30 lead at the break.
Maryland finished with 50 points in the paint, and with guards Sara Vujacic and Taylor Mikesell combining to make 6-of-11 shots from behind the arc, UMBC’s undersized defense couldn’t key on any singular scoring range for Maryland.
“We wanted an inside-outside presence,” Frese said. “Especially with how talented our bigs are and the size advantage we had over them today.”
Five different scorers finished in double figures, with forwards Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin leading the way with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Austin added 11 rebounds for a double-double.
Austin has been unpredictable on the offensive end so far this year. She came in averaging six points on 4-of-12 shooting over the previous two contests, but the freshman was at her best on Sunday.
“Talent doesn’t go anywhere,” Austin said. “It’s just making sure you bring it all to the court each and every game, and stay focused and make the right plays.”
Olivia Owens, who had only played in 19 minutes in three appearances entering the game, was the final rotation player to check in. The freshman entered with 2:16 left before halftime, and she laid it in on the following possession to give the Terps 10 different first-half scorers.
After UMBC clawed back with a 10-2 run to cut the Terps’ lead to 20, Vujacic took over. The junior drilled a pair of 3-pointers and added a lay-in to fuel the 17-point swing. She finished with a career-high 13 points.
“I’ve just gotta stay ready,” said Vujacic, who scored in her first game since she notched six in the season-opener against Coppin state.
Maryland struggled offensively in the final period, as UMBC outscored the Terps, 13-11. But the lapse came with the team’s bench logging a majority of the minutes.
Still, Maryland went on to win, 92-61, in its most decisive performance since beating the top-10 Gamecocks.
“The response from the bench being ready to play was big,” Frese said. “[It’s] an area that’s concerning that we’ve got to figure out sooner than later, our energy was flat, but I thought the response to it was terrific.”