By Connor Bell.
Outclassing yet another Big Ten opponent, the University of Maryland Terrapins cruised to an 84-59 victory Thursday night over the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.
The game brought the Terps’ winning streak to 12 straight games as they remain the only undefeated team in Big Ten play with win number 24 on the season.
In the first quarter, Maryland’s strategy seemed to be getting points in the paint as senior Brionna Jones seemed to get a touch on the ball every possession, being the tallest player on the floor at all times. The presence of Jones in the paint allowed the Terps to have great looks from the perimeter with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scoring 10 points in the first quarter.
On the other end of the court, Maryland shutout the Illini for almost five minutes in the first quarter, allowing the Terps to build a 14-point lead going into the second quarter. Illinois found great open shots in the first quarter but could not capitalize on them — shooting 8-30 total in the first half.
Meanwhile the Terps shot 44 percent form the field in the first half with 40 first-half points and went in the locker room with a 20-point lead.
Despite maintaining a 21-point lead halfway through the third quarter, Brenda Frese’s squad did not back off the struggling Illini as they switched to a full-court press.
Illinois didn’t let this defense affect them as they actually managed to keep up with Maryland’s offense in the third quarter, but still found themselves outscored 60-37 at the end of 30 minutes of play.
For the remainder of the game, the two teams traded baskets as Illinois could not seem to make a dent in Maryland’s established 20-point lead. The Illini only touched the free throw line three times Thursday night as well and finished with only 16 points in the paint.
“For us to have a chance, we had to finish the first half better and I think we only scored two points in the last six or seven minutes of the first half, and to me that was the difference in the game,” Illini head coach Matt Bollant said. “Be proud of your team [Maryland] you’ve got a good one.”
Bollant also had extremely high praise for the way Maryland came out to play tonight, but also how they come to play every night despite being the No. 2 team in the country.
The Terps dominated all facets of the game. Even though they only shot 44 percent from the field, they managed to hold Illinois to an even lower 3 and gained 20 points off their 18 turnovers.
“I thought Shatori set the tone obviously, I thought the starters were extremely solid,” Terp’s head coach Brenda Frese remarked. “We just have to continue to challenge our depth…that has to continue to be consistent for us.”
Perhaps the biggest news of the night was freshman point guard Destiny Slocum passing all-time Terp great Christy Toliver for the most freshman assists in a season.
The Terps’ next game comes is set for Feb. 12 against the Michigan State University Spartans, who are currently tied for fourth in the Big Ten.