Shyanne Sellers had the ball, 2.4 seconds left in the second quarter and a decision to make. She realized she didn’t have time to drive to the basket and launched the ball from where she stood.
The shot, a three-pointer that landed as the buzzer blared to signal the end of the first half, marked Maryland women’s basketball’s first long-range make of Sunday afternoon against Northwestern and broke a tie as the teams headed into halftime.
“Thank god that shot went in. We were gonna go in tied at half and that really didn’t sit right with me,” Sellers said.
The Terps never looked back, beating the Wildcats 71-58 in their Big Ten opener behind a third-quarter surge. Coach Brenda Frese emphasized the importance of winning the first conference game — Maryland lost by 23 to Nebraska to start last year’s Big Ten slate.
Sellers notched her second straight double-double, the first of her career with points and assists. She had 13 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals, taking charge in every aspect of the game to help the Terps turn a tie game into a comfortable win.
“Shy played like she’s practiced all week,” Frese said. “Her second double-double, she commanded the game, and [I was] not surprised by her line, almost a triple-double, just given the great practices she had leading into this game.”
Another slow shooting start plagued the Terps in the first quarter against the Wildcats (3-6, 0-1 Big Ten); Maryland (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten) made just two of its first seven attempts. However, unlike the Terps’ earlier games this season, they righted themselves and ended the first quarter with a 50 percent mark from the field.
Transition offense fueled that scoring. Four Wildcat miscues in the first frame turned into eight points off turnovers for the home team.
Both teams dealt with foul trouble in the second quarter. Two early offensive fouls from Maryland let Northwestern reach the bonus with about six minutes left in the frame.
The Terps’ errors forced key defenders Bri McDaniel and Brinae Alexander to the bench for much of the second frame. The Wildcats capitalized with a 12-4 run that put them up by one.
But Maryland kept pace with its efforts from the free throw line. Northwestern had five fouls in the first quarter and seven in the second. The Terps scored five of their 14 points in the frame from the free throw line.
Maryland’s defense swarmed the Wildcats in the third quarter. All five players kept their arms outstretched and refused to give up open looks, forcing Northwestern into an early shot clock violation. Its struggles continued throughout the quarter.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy in that first half,” Allie Kubek, who scored 17 points, said. “We just weren’t boxing out, we weren’t running, we weren’t defending. So I think the first possession [of the] third quarter, we knew that we had to step it up defensively.”
With Alexander and McDaniel back on the court, the Terps held the Wildcats without a point for over four minutes and limited them to an 18.8 shooting percentage in the quarter.
Strong defense translated into offense; Maryland outscored Northwestern 20-6 in the third to take a commanding lead into the final 10 minutes.
The Wildcats outscored the Terps by four in the final frame as Frese sparingly played her starters, but it was too late to overcome Maryland’s advantage.