After making a pair of free throws to give her team a double-digit lead, Bri McDaniel quickly switched into defensive mode. McDaniel got in Brynn Shoup-Hill’s face and forced her to lose control of the ball.
Abby Meyers scooped the ball up from the ground and leaped with her arm outstretched for a layup to finish Maryland women’s basketball’s dominant third quarter in which it outscored Illinois by 23 points.
The Terps launched a come-from-behind win during their senior day game, using its explosive third frame to overpower the Fighting Illini 82-71. Seniors Diamond Miller, Faith Masonius and Meyers, along with graduate student Elisa Pinzan, were honored before the game.
Miller led the team in scoring and rebounds with 31 points and nine rebounds. Meyers followed with 18 points as Maryland (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten) notched its seventh win in eight games.
Maryland once again found itself struggling to keep up with its opponent Sunday after trailing by four at the end of the first quarter against Northwestern on Thursday. A plethora of early turnovers and inconsistent shooting led to a 20-14 deficit against Illinois (19-7, 9-6 Big Ten) after the opening frame.
Masonius attempted to send the ball to Shyanne Sellers, who positioned herself by the basket for a layup, on the first possession of the game. Masonius’s pass went soaring past Sellers and out of bounds — the first of 10 turnovers between the two teams in the first quarter.
“I think our defense was the key and we weren’t really locked in at the beginning of the game,” Elisa Pinzan said.
While a timeout gave both squads the reset they needed to decrease turnovers, it didn’t solve all of Maryland’s problems. The Fighting Illini’s precision from behind the arc helped them stay in the lead, shooting 5-for-5 on three-point attempts compared to the Terps’ 0-for-5 performance.
Illinois finished the game shooting 54.5 percent from behind the arc while Maryland did not make a single three-pointer in its victory, going 0-for-17 from deep.
Illinois continued to find the cracks in Maryland’s defense in the second quarter. After the Terps prevented the Fighting Illini from scoring for more than three minutes to open the frame, Shoup-Hill woke up her squad’s offense on the free-throw line. Shoup-Hill’s pair of free throws began a 12-2 Illinois run.
Coach Brenda Frese called a timeout to refocus her team with Illinois up by 10 points, but the 30-second break wasn’t enough to avoid entering the break trailing 37-28.
Halftime provided the pause the Terps needed to regroup after a disappointing twenty minutes.
“Halftime was what halftime needed to be,” Miller said. “I think that fired us up and when we came back out, we came out playing good defense and just executing on both sides of the court.”
Miller looped around Fighting Illini defenders and found an open lane to the hoop early on in the third quarter. She swung her arm up in the air and made a layup to cap off an 11-2 run for the Terps and tie the game at 39 apiece.
Miller’s layup was a breath of fresh air for Maryland, who had been trailing for almost 10 minutes of play after Illinois’ second-quarter run. A few minutes later, a layup from Meyers gave the team the lead for the first since the opening frame.
But the Terps didn’t stop there. More made-baskets by Maryland allowed it to implement a full-court press to stifle the Fighting Illini’s offense and force 10 third-quarter turnovers.
Maryland outscored Illinois 31-8 in the third quarter, with 17 of its points coming off Fighting Illini turnovers.
While Makira Cook and Illinois attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter, its efforts weren’t enough to overcome the Terps’ third-quarter surge, allowing fans to get on their feet to applaud the senior day honorees as the final buzzer sounded.
“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, so I think that bodes really well for this team,” Frese said.