With the final seconds ticking off the clock Saturday, Radford guard Alexis Jackson pulled up for an off-balance 3-pointer to pad the margin of defeat.

Maryland women’s basketball guard Sarah Myers extended her right arm to swat away the would-be triple, the exclamation point on a dominant defensive effort for the home squad.

Looking to make a statement after a poor defensive showing in the Big Ten tournament, the Terps smothered the Highlanders’ offense for all 40 minutes Saturday en route to a 73-51 victory, coach Brenda Frese’s 16th win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“We were ready to go from the tip,” Frese said. “Our defense led to our transition, and we were able to put them away.”

In the conference championship game, Maryland’s defense was essentially nonexistent. Iowa star Megan Gustafson scored at will to deal the Terps their second title game defeat in as many seasons.

Saturday’s matchup was a complete reversal. While a second-quarter scoring lull brought No. 14-seed Radford to within four points, the No. 3-seed Maryland locked down after that, holding the Highlanders without a field goal for the next nine minutes to put the game out of reach.

In the early stages, Maryland’s offense lagged behind, missing its first four shots from the field. But the Terps (29-4) wouldn’t be denied for long. They hit their next seven attempts from the field to take a 14-point lead.

Meanwhile, Radford (26-7) struggled with Maryland’s speed and athleticism defensively. The Highlanders didn’t make a field goal for more than six minutes to start the game, and by the time guard Destinee Walker hit a 3-pointer to end their drought, the Terps had already scored 16.

“Being in our zone, it made us talk more as a whole unit,” guard Taylor Mikesell said. “To get one stop and then get the rebound, and we were able to get out and push in transition.”

Radford eventually got going, thanks in large part to miscues from Maryland. Over the last four minutes of the first quarter, the Terps gave the ball away four times, igniting a 10-2 Highlanders run that shrunk their lead to 18-12.

Frese tried to halt Radford’s momentum with a timeout midway through the second quarter after guard Khiana Johnson buried a jumper over guard Blair Watson to pull within five. Following the stoppage, Walker knocked down another three, and Maryland’s lead shrunk to 24-20.

“We just had to regroup our focus,” Frese said. “Kinda reminding them that Radford wasn’t going to quit playing.”

The 17th-year coach’s message manifested almost immediately. Radford was held scoreless for the final five minutes of the half, and a pair of buckets from guard Kaila Charles — who finished with a game-high 16 points points on 6-of-13 shooting — helped Maryland enter the locker room with a more comfortable 33-20 lead.

Frese’s team continued to showcase its superiority after the break. Maryland missed its first two shots of the second half, then hit six of its next eight from the floor to stretch its advantage to 43-22.

“Our defense definitely led to our offense in the third quarter,” Mikesell said. “Just got us out and running in transition.”

Forward Shakira Austin made her first start since the regular-season finale, and after being held to just one point on zero shots in the first half, she asserted herself on the offensive end in the second period.

The Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection scored 10 points on 4-of-8 from the field in the second half alone, helping the Terps outscore the Highlanders 40-18 in the paint.

“I was going with the flow,” Austin said. “I was more aggressive in the second half than the first.”

With three minutes to go in the third quarter, Mikesell pulled up from the right side of the arc in transition and sank her 92nd triple of the season. That broke Kristi Toliver’s program record of 91, set during the 2008-09 campaign.

“I think it’s really cool especially with it being Kristi Toliver,” Mikesell said. “Everybody remembers her and her legacy she left here, so it’s an honor.”

Two minutes later, she added another on a similarly developing fast break to give the Terps a 25-point edge, their largest of the game to that point.

Radford outscored Maryland in the final quarter, but never got closer than 20. The strength of the Terps’ defense in the first three periods meant the game was already decided.

“Our focus, with not a lot of time, has been on our defense,” Frese said. “That’s where we spent the last couple of weeks. It was great to be able to see.”