The No. 8 Terps never lagged behind them on Sunday, but their 62:50 win in Evanston, Illinois was a far cry from the dominant performances they have put together of late. That might be a good thing for them, however, as points are accrued so easily for the highest scoring team in the nation that there may be some value in trying to find another way to win. The Terps defense has increased in recent games, and the 50 points they allowed were a season low for the Wildcats.
“Road wins are valuable. . . . It wasn’t an easy game for us today, ”said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “You can face such a team in the NCAA tournament. Because of that, in case we see Northwestern in the tournament again, we love the fact that we’ve all played in Big Ten. Just finding one answer, and especially on a night when we as a team didn’t have our best game together. Great teams find other ways. “
Maryland (19-2, 15-1 Big Ten) has two regular season games to go to secure the number 1 Big Ten tournament and a sixth regular season title since joining the league in 2014. The conference announced on Sunday that Maryland’s rescheduled February 7 game at No. 12 in Michigan would take place on Thursday, which would give the Terps another shot in a notable win over a senior team. The NCAA’s Division I Women’s Basketball Committee posted its top 16 ranking on Sunday, listing Maryland at # 6. A win over Michigan and a possible run through the Big Ten tournament could bring Maryland to its knees in the minds of committee members.
Meanwhile, Maryland can secure the final championship of the regular season conference with wins in the last two games against Michigan on Thursday and Penn State on Saturday. Runner-up Indiana (16-4, 14-2) is one game behind, with Iowa and Purdue games remaining.
Against Northwesern, the Terrapins have reached a season low with 62 points. They started the day averaging 9.2 three-point points, twelfth in the nation, but they were 0-7 out of three-point range in the first half and finished just 2-13.
They shot a total of 39.7 percent and made 14 turnovers, but the defense kept the Wildcats at 30.2 percent shooting total and an identical 2v13 mark from the depths.
“We wanted to stop the penetration,” said Maryland striker Diamond Miller. “[Northwestern guard Veronica Burton] I did a good job and we wanted to stop them. We just focused and dug and played the defense of Maryland to the best of our ability. “
Maryland only led 30-27 at halftime, but the Terps took advantage of a 9-0 run at the end of the third quarter, including five points from Mimi Collins, to extend their lead to 10. That was too big a deficit for The Wildcats To Be Overcome, and a few late Collins layups put an end to all hopes for a rally.
Collins scored the third double-double of her career, finishing the race 18 points and 10 rebounds as she dominated at a low level while the Northwest Defense did a good job, constraining Maryland from the edge. Miller overcame a slow offensive start with 17 points and 10 rebounds, including a crucial pull-up three, when Northwestern cut the lead to 49-45 in the middle of the fourth quarter. She followed that up with a highlight reel layup as she stepped through three defenders and finished with her left hand to bring the lead back to nine.
Second point guard Ashley Owusu was on time out for Maryland but still scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and distributed seven assists.
“It was an amazing night,” said Collins. “But it was only an understanding that I have guns on this team. We are all 11 strong. Northwestern has great guards and they tried to deny our guards but we still attacked. It only opened up to all of the great ones inside, especially me.
“Basically I only had one field day. Besides, I don’t mind beating people. I love it. I grew up with two older brothers. Well, I play soccer and I meet people all the time, it’s just my field day. “
Burton led Northwestern with 15 points and seven rebounds, while teammate Lindsey Pulliam scored 13 points and six rebounds.
Frese was tired of her fourth game in nine days, including the last five days on the road. But with even bigger games ahead of her, she was thrilled to see how they find a way to hold out.