Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Strong second half propels Terps to victory over Michigan

No. 9 Maryland (15-1 4-1 Big Ten) continued their winning ways on Saturday against Michigan 83-69, however, the game was closer than the score indicates. It was a tale of two halves for Maryland who were sloppy with the ball in the first half, but improved their ball security and defensive effort in the second half.

Once again the Terps had great offensive balance, with four players finishing in double figures scoring in a variety of ways. Freshman forward Shakira Austin played well on both ends of the floor nearly finishing with a triple double. Sophomore guard Channise Lewis consistently found her teammates all over the court both inside and behind the arc finishing with 11 assists.

After struggling offensively the last couple of games, Austin came out of the gates strong knocking down two jumpers and blocking two of her game high seven shots with authority. The Terps went on an 8-0 run early in the first quarter to take an 8-2 lead, with efficient shooting and passing. However, the Wolverines quickly picked up their defensive intensity closing out the quarter on a 19-6 run. Michigan’s 1-2-2 full court press forced the Terps into quick decisions and tough positions causing nine turnovers. Getting out quickly in transition, the Wolverines scored 10 of their 21 first quarter points off of the turnovers.

Looking for a spark off the bench, head coach Brenda Frese brought in junior guard Sara Vujacic. Vujacic provided exactly that with eight second quarter points including two shots from behind the arc. In addition to Vujacic’ spark, Maryland played stronger defense limiting Michigan to 29.4 percent from the field including a three minute scoring drought. Improved defense and ball security in the second quarter allowed the Terps to retake the lead heading into halftime 35-34.

Neither team was able to establish a large lead early in the third quarter, however, Maryland closed it out on a 7-0 run. The Wolverines went scoreless the final three minutes of the third, unable to take the lid off of the basket with the stifling Maryland defense. Compared to the first half, nothing came easy for the Michigan offense. Senior forward Hallie Thome the Wolverines offensive leader had a particularly tough time with Austin’s length. Austin made it difficult for Thome to catch the ball in advantageous positions and contested or altered many of her shots.

Maryland saved their best play for the final quarter converting on their offensive opportunities and not allowing anything easy for Michigan. The Terps shot a staggering 76.9 percent from the field and limited Michigan to 40 percent in the final frame. The guard duo of junior Blair Watson and freshman Taylor Mikesell knocked down consecutive threes propelling the Terps lead to eight early in the fourth creating some separation. Watson caught fire in the final quarter with 12 points not missing a shot.

Maryland travels next to East Lansing to take on No. 23 Michigan State on Thursday.