COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)When it came time for Brenda Frese’s Maryland players to rate their performance at halftime, there was a bit of a disconnect between them and their coach.
”They rate themselves a little higher than what I (did),” Frese said. ”That was called out.”
Whatever was said during that break, the eighth-ranked Terrapins looked like a different team afterward, dominating the third quarter on their way to an 82-71 victory over Illinois on Sunday. Diamond Miller scored 31 points, and the Terps rallied from an 11-point second-quarter deficit.
”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.”
Abby Meyers scored 14 of her 18 points in the third quarter for the Terrapins, who improved to 13-0 all-time against the Illini. This victory was in doubt for a while, though. Maryland (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten) missed all 17 of its 3-point attempts but was able to come back thanks to its tenacious pressure defense.
Down 37-28 at halftime, the Terps outscored Illinois 31-8 in the third. The Illini had more turnovers (10) than field goal attempts (nine) in the quarter.
”The concern obviously, playing them, is their pressure,” Illinois coach Shauna Green said. ”We handled it fine until that third quarter, when we didn’t handle it fine, and they made us pay by getting a ton of baskets off of our turnovers.”
Meyers’ three-point play put Maryland ahead 46-43. After a couple free throws by Illinois’ Makira Cook, the Terps scored the final 13 points of the period. A steal and layup by Miller put Maryland up by five, and then Shyanne Sellers stole the ball and passed to Meyers for a layup.
With about a minute to go in the quarter, Cook’s pass sailed right to Green on the sideline. She bounced the ball in apparent frustration. Moments later, following another turnover, Meyers made a layup while being fouled, and the free throw made it 59-45.
Illinois (19-7, 9-6) made all five of its 3-point attempts in the first quarter and went 12 of 22 beyond the arc in the game. Cook scored 29 points but had nine of her team’s 25 turnovers.
Illinois was playing without guard Genesis Bryant, the team’s second-leading scorer. Only six Illini players appeared for more than 3:13 and only seven played at all.
”It’s a huge challenge to not have one of your starting point guards,” Green said. ”For us to kind of get to that next level, we’ve got to be able to handle pressure.”
Illinois: The Illini did a nice job slowing Maryland down in the first half, but their inability to hold onto the ball gave the Terps way too many easy baskets. Maryland finished with a 30-13 edge in fast break points.
Maryland: It says a lot that the Terps ended up winning fairly comfortably despite being outscored 36-0 beyond the arc. Maryland’s ability to get out and run makes this team dangerous even when Miller isn’t getting much help in the half-court offense.
While Maryland missed every 3-pointer it took, the Terps were also a perfect 18 for 18 on free throws. And they outscored Illinois 56-12 in the paint.
”It started defensively with our press,” Frese said. ”(Sellers), who was struggling a little bit in that first half – I really challenged her and Diamond at halftime. Those two really needed to step up our energy for the defensive end.”
Illinois: The Illini host Penn State next Sunday.
Maryland: The Terps play at Michigan State on Saturday. Maryland won the first meeting between the teams 94-85 last month.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25