When the Yellow Jackets came within one point at the start of the fourth quarter, junior guard Kaila Charles sprang into action. She scored nine consecutive points in a row to put the Terps up 10 once again, forcing Georgia Tech to call a timeout.
“I thought this was one of Kaila’s best games,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “It started on the defensive end and how she led, her communication, her energy, and you saw the impact that she has on the game.”
Though the Terps (7-0) held a 38-18 lead going into halftime, they gave the ball up five times in the second quarter to match Georgia Tech’s nine turnovers in the half, and that pattern of sloppiness carried over to the second half. Maryland turned the ball over twice within the first three minutes of the third quarter, paving the way for a Yellow Jacket run.
Georgia Tech (5-2) came alive to cut the Maryland lead to 10 with under three minutes in the third quarter, and thanks to eight total turnovers, the Terps went scoreless for over four minutes.
“When they started doubling the ball-screens that gave us some problems,” Frese said. “They were coming at us really aggressively, and obviously we’re not very good when we can’t get shots at the basket and we’re turning the basketball over.”
In those four minutes, the Yellow Jackets cut the lead to only three, entering the fourth quarter after a 15-0 run. Georgia Tech’s sophomore guard Kierra Fletcher and freshman guard Elizabeth Balogun led the Georgia Tech run, with a combined nine points in the third quarter alone.
With just under two minutes in the game, the sloppy play continued and each team was shooting just over 40 percent from the floor.
After her fourth-quarter surge, Charles led the team in scoring with 23 points, and freshman guard Taylor Mikesell, who played all 40 minutes, was close behind with 20 points – 15 of which came in the first half.
“It didn’t really feel like I was in the whole game, but it ended up being that way,” Mikesell said. “Coach B was big about contributing any way possible and being versatile… Trying to do everything that I can to help my team win.”
Mikesell and Charles led the charge in the first quarter, scoring 13 of the Terps 18 points in the first quarter, and the Maryland lead may have been even larger without those four turnovers. The Terps entered the second quarter with an eight-point lead after keeping the Yellow Jackets scoreless for over five minutes.
“We came out strong, and I thought defensively [it] was one of our best halves that we’ve had all season,” Frese said. “We defended and rebounded and dictated like we wanted to.”
The Terps’ turnover woes continued into the second quarter, but they kept their lead due to Georgia Tech’s shooting troubles. In fact, Mikesell scored 10 on her own before the Yellow Jackets could get to double digits. Georgia Tech, despite finishing the half shooting 30 percent from the floor, put together 12 points in the second quarter alone and continued to shoot better in the second half.
Even though Charles dug her team out of the hole created in the third quarter, the Terps’ shooting did not improve, as they finished the night shooting 43 percent with only four three-pointers, all by Mikesell.
Though it wasn’t pretty, the Terps pulled out the 67-54 win over Georgia Tech to capture the ACC/Big Ten Challenge along with their seventh-straight win over the Yellow Jackets.
“Obviously [Georgia Tech] dictated in the third quarter, but proud of our poise and our composure, especially when they cut the lead to one,” Frese said. “Just a tremendous game where I thought we grew up tonight.”
The Terps will host UMBC on Sunday at 1 p.m., looking to keep their undefeated record to start the season.
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