In what seems to be a pattern, guard Kaila Charles was carrying her team on her back in the first half. The junior had a double-double just in the first two quarters of play, and her team-best 20 points and 13 rebounds lifted the No. 8 Terps to a 58-55 win at Purdue. The victory also allowed Maryland to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
Charles had little to no help on offense in the first half, as Maryland got off to yet another slow start. The same thing happened Thursday night against Minnesota, with Maryland was trailing by seven in the final quarter. That was until Charles sprung into action and led the Terps to a 9-0 run including a buzzer-beater layup to win the game 71-69.
Maryland averages 76 points per game, but the Terps had only 23 points at the halfway mark at Purdue. In the first half, Maryland shot under 30 percent from the floor, and its seven turnovers allowed 11 points off turnovers for the Boilermakers.
By the midway point of the second half, the Terps had nearly doubled that number. Purdue’s Kayana Traylor gave her team a 10-point lead coming out of the media timeout with back-to-back threes, meanwhile, the Terps didn’t score for about four minutes.
It wasn’t until the second half that freshman guard Taylor Mikesell started to come alive, getting five quick points at the start of the third quarter.
Junior forward Stephanie Jones, who played only three minutes of the first half before getting two fouls, was integral in the Terps’ surge back to take the lead. Jones and Mikesell finished the night with 16 points and 10 points, respectively.
Freshman forward Shakira Austin tied a career-high eight blocks, previously done against Delaware on Dec. 20, and was an integral part of the Terps’ stifling second-half defense.
The Boilermakers did make a run late in the fourth quarter to make it a three-point game at the end, but Jones came through with clutch layups and free throws to secure the win.
Austin and the Maryland defense held Purdue to 12 points in the final quarter, though Purdue’s Kayana Traylor made it interesting with a career-best 18 points.
Maryland was without senior forward Brianna Fraser, who is out day-to-day with an ankle injury, but was able to control inside the paint. Despite earlier scoring troubles, the Terps were able to outscore the Boilermakers 38-24 in the paint and won the rebounding battle.
The Terps, who have already secured a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, now are only one win away from securing their fifth Big Ten title in six years since entering the conference.
Maryland will close out its regular season schedule against Illinois at home Saturday. Tipoff at 2 p.m. and it can be streamed live on BTN2Go.
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