Maryland opens conference play with 100-65 win over Illinois, improves to 12-2

Maryland opens Big Ten player with a win vs. Illinois

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Two Terps collected double-doubles as Maryland (12-2, 1-0) earn its first Big Ten win this season with a 100-65 victory against the Illinois Fighting Illini.

“We were ready to play,” head coach Brenda Frese said on the Maryland win. “I thought that transferred to everything we were doing. You saw the game was really physical, You could see we were ready for it. We led in so many different ways.”

This marks eight straight wins in the Maryland-Illinois series for the Terrapins. From the beginning, it was Maryland’s game to dominate. The team’s high shooting percentage while protecting the ball helped create easy scoring options to rely on. When the offense was quiet in the post, their three-point shooting continued to solidify their scoring.

“We set the tone with our energy right from the tip.” Frese said. “I love the unselfish play we play with. Third straight game with 100 points.”

Maryland displayed a suffocating defense that Illinois (9-6, 0-1) could not penetrate. Shot clock violations and stifling ball movement kept Illinois away from shooting. Poor shooting did not help their case, going 25-for-71 (35.2 percent) for field goal shooting on the night.

On the perimeter, Maryland executed three-point shooting in small windows. Fluid ball movement and successful quick release shooting helped the Terrapins rise above the Illini quickly. Maryland finished with 21 assists.

Fast break transitions were also easy points for the Terrapins. Maryland outscored Illinois 24 to 7 on the fast break. This led to two gaping runs in the first half, opening up a 29-point gap in the second quarter. The Terrapins led the Illini 57-31 at halftime.

Illinois forward Alex Wittinger was the only Illinois player to break the double digit threshold, responsible for 10 of her team’s 31 points in the first half. She ended with a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds. Guard Brandi Beasley was Illinois’ leading scorer of the night with 16 points.

Sophomore guard Kaila Charles led Maryland with 17 points in the first half. Beyond the arc, guard Kristen Confroy was their go-to shooter during those fast breaks, scoring nine in long range shooting in the first half. Blair Watson was key on closing Maryland’s victory, with 22 points and eight rebounds. She landed twelve points from long range in the second half.

“This is who she is,” Frese said on Watson’s rhythm. This is Watson’s second season after undergoing shoulder surgery, altering her shot. “This is how well she was able to shoot coming out of high school,” Frese said. “You’re able to see her abilities now.”

A slow second half start for Maryland encouraged Illinois to get into a groove of their own, but they were outscored in the third quarter 22-15.

“When we bring that energy and effort, we play our best game.” Charles said on the tempo adjustments. “[Illinois] likes to slow the game a lot. We wouldn’t let them dictate the game.”

This shift of energy and slowing of pace created chances for Illinois to take the game in their hands, but as Illinois combed out the kinks of their offense, Maryland’s cushioning of a 26-point gap was a safety net.

“You can’t give Maryland easy points,” Illinois head coach Nancy Fahey said. “You can’t bury yourself against a team like [Maryland] in the first two quarters.”

The usual trio of Brianna Fraser, Blair Watson and Charles were the force behind Maryland dominating win. In their rhythm, the trio finished with 58 of Maryland’s 100 points. Forward Stephanie Jones accumulated her second double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The Terrapins also dominated the floor with 24 points in the paint and outrebounded Illinois 54-32.

“Our bigs were ready to play,” Frese said. “When you look at the weapons this team has on the perimeter and inside, every game will be different on how you stop us. When you have the dominance our post players have tonight, that’s where we needed to go.”

Maryland must improve on their free throw percentage to lengthen leads when teams have trouble playing clean basketball. The Terrapins finished only making 62 percent of their free throws.

“We have to be aggressive and execute,” Fraser said. “We have to keep our energy up.”

The Terrapins look to stay undefeated as they travel to face the Penn State for their second game of the season. Penn State dropped their first conference game to Michigan in a 89-69 loss on their conference opener.

By the Numbers

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