Maryland women’s basketball was leading by a single possession in the first quarter when Shyanne Sellers swatted the ball away from Makenna Marisa and stormed down the court.
Sellers outpaced Penn State’s players and converted a layup, one of 13 first-quarter field goals for the Terps.
“It’s really important for us to come out and punch first,” she said.
No. 8 Maryland carried the momentum from its ranked win against Michigan over to Monday, using a 29-point first quarter to dominate Penn State 87-66 for its fifth-straight win.
Abby Meyers led the Terps with 24 points, while Sellers and Diamond Miller also finished the game in double-figures.
Maryland hit the ground running thanks to five Penn State turnovers that translated into a 20-2 scoring run, with 12 points coming off turnovers.
[Forced turnovers are turning into points for Maryland women’s basketball]
Halfway through the run, the Nittany Lions crowded the paint in an attempt to slow down Miller, but even four defenders inside couldn’t stop her. Miller slipped between them and flung her body toward the basket for the layup.
Led by Miller and Meyers, the Terps made nine field goals in a row, finishing the opening frame up 29-9.
“I think this team has really taken to heart, they want to punch first, they want to be ready to go from the tip,” coach Brenda Frese said. “When we’re able to turn people over our defense to our offense really allows us to get going.”
Coach Brenda Frese’s squad slowed down considerably in the second quarter — failing to score for nearly five minutes and turning the ball over seven times. The Terps shot 36.4 percent from the field, less than half of their first-quarter shooting percentage.
But when Maryland struggled to replicate its offense, its defense continued to prevail. The team prevented Penn State from taking advantage of seven turnovers and a scoring drought of almost five minutes.
[No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball overpowers No. 13 Michigan late, 72-64]
“The great teams, they’re not going to always make their shots…but they’re able to stay consistent on defense and prevent runs,” Meyers said. “For us, we’re always emphasizing right like as our offense gets better, our defense needs to get exponentially better as well.”
The Terps were stifling on defense, forcing the Nittany Lions to step out of bounds and turn the ball over twice in the quarter. When they didn’t force turnovers, the Terps prevented open looks and held their opponents to a 21.4 percent shooting percentage.
Despite its 23-point lead heading into the second half, Maryland kept its focus following a lackluster second quarter. It improved its shooting from the field to 43.8 percent and made 11 of 12 free throw attempts, which helped it stay in the lead when the Nittany Lions found their offensive groove.
The Terps found their confidence again in the final quarter of the game. Shyanne Sellers found an opening behind the arc, caught the ball, and launched the ball into the net — the first of back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Sellers wasn’t the only player to make a difference in the fourth quarter for Maryland. Freshmen Mila Reynolds and Bri McDaniel combined for eight points in the final frame, players that typically don’t get as much shine during close bouts.
Taniyah Thompson scored 10 points in the third quarter and finished the game with 17. Marisa led the Nittany Lions with 23 points.
But despite Marisa and Thompson’s best efforts, Penn State couldn’t come back from its early deficit.