With only about six and a half minutes left in the first quarter of Maryland women’s basketball’s game Sunday at Xfinity Center, Diamond Miller missed the team’s first three-point attempt of the afternoon. And with just less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Abby Meyers missed the team’s final three. The collective shooting from deep was just as bad throughout as No. 8 Maryland missed all 17 of its attempts from behind the arc.
Coach Brenda Frese called it an uncharacteristically poor game from three. Her team, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage, had just finished its worst performance from downtown all season.
Still, despite not one three dropping, Maryland (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten) defeated an Illinois team that’s either been ranked or received votes in every Associated Press poll since week nine.
“You have to find ways to win that are going to be different,” Frese said. “So I think for us to have a night like this, I don’t know that I recall a team ever not being able to hit a three. But at the same time, I don’t know if I’ve had a team shoot the free throws as well as this team.”
And find ways to win they did. The Terps were a perfect 18-for-18 from the free-throw line — their highest percentage of the year — and outscored Illinois in the paint, 56-12.
“It’s interesting winning a game being 0-for-17 [from three] while the other team is 12-for-22,” Meyers said. “It’s an interesting statistic, but it shows our depth and how we can win games in a lot of ways.”
Then there was the team’s defensive press, which forced the Fighting Illini into a season-high 25 turnovers and led to 29 points. Defensively, Maryland utilized its length to pick off passes — it tied for a season-best 18 steals in the outing — and trap Illinois’ smaller guards in the corner. The visitors consistently struggled getting the ball over half court.
“I think definitely putting on our 12-press,” Faith Masonius said, “We got our hands big, and it kind of just upped our energy. And we realized once we pressed, we have that pressure, we’re long, we can get those steals and just get wide open layups, and it can be that easy.”
Illinois coach Shauna Green praised Maryland’s depth of attack and weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Six Terps scored, led by Miller, who dropped a game-high 31 points — one shy of her career best — and nine rebounds.
Meyers and Shyanne Sellers combined for another 31 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and nine steals. The adroit Meyers wreaked havoc inside, driving to the lane, drawing fouls and grabbing four offensive rebounds. Then there was Sellers, who ran the offense and had top 10 worthy assist after assist, including a euro-step helper in the third quarter.
Although Illinois led at the half, the Terps used a 31-point third quarter to regain the lead and put the game out of reach. They had little trouble carving through Illinois’ zone.
“There’s also a lot of gaps in zone,” Miller said. “And once you find those gaps, it just opens up the zone into easy opportunities for you or your teammates.”
Maryland now possesses an impressive 10-2 record at their home confines, and the Illinois game was another opportunity to finish the season off strong. Maryland plays Michigan State on the road, No. 7 Iowa at home and No. 13 Ohio State away to end the regular season.
The Terps probably won’t want another game without making a three but if it happens, Frese is confident her team will find other ways to win.
“Our most successful teams in the past is when you can challenge them to win in different ways,” Frese said. “They’re not married to winning just one way. So I think that bodes really well for this team.”