As it ran its winning streak to six games on Saturday afternoon at XFINITY Center, the No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball team relied on a familiar formula.
Deadlocked at the half against Michigan State (10-5, 2-2 Big Ten), the Terrapins (13-3, 4-1 Big Ten) outscored the Spartans 30-11 in the third quarter before pulling away with a 94-85 victory. Maryland scored the first 15 points of the period and outshot its conference rival 58 percent to 27.
Second-half surges have been a hallmark of the Terps’ longest winning streak of the season: Saturday marked the third time in the last four games that Maryland crossed the 30-point mark in the third quarter.
“After halftime, we kind of regrouped and talked about things that we needed to work on,” sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers said. “Just changing our focus to lock in defensively — and obviously you saw that with them only scoring 11 points in that third quarter.”
“Our defense was Swiss cheese,” Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant added. “It felt like there [were] 10 Maryland players to our five. We just could not — we did not compete defensively in that quarter. They got rebounds, they drove by us, they hit shots in our face. I give them a lot of credit. That was a great quarter for them, and it really was the separator.”
For Maryland, the shift after halftime began with a lineup change: Lavender Briggs started in place of Elisa Pinzan, contributing six of her season-high 15 points in the third quarter.
For Briggs, Saturday represented another strong outing. The transfer from Florida endured a difficult start to her Maryland career — during one three-game stretch in November, she shot 0-12 from the field and recorded one point.
But the senior guard has appeared more comfortable in her role of late. Against Michigan State, Briggs recorded her third straight double-digit scoring game while also contributing seven rebounds.
“I love the confidence that she was playing with — shooting the basketball, being able to get on the glass for us offensively, as well as defensively,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I know her defense is always going to be there. So the fact that she’s just playing at such a high level with confidence… we need her on the floor.”
Punctuating Maryland’s third-quarter push was a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Bri McDaniel, who finished with seven points in seven minutes.
Like Briggs, McDaniel is another of the Terps’ bench players who seems to be finding her footing. After going 10 straight games without a field goal between Nov. 11 and Dec. 8, the freshman guard has earned a steadily bigger role in the Terps’ rotation over the last four games.
“I loved Bri McDaniel today,” Frese said. “I thought she’s really trending in the right direction where we need her to based off of practices, and no coincidence the success she had today. She’s been really putting her head down and putting work in. And again, we need to extend that depth as a team.”
Michigan State exploited a height advantage inside to stay close to Maryland in the first half, scoring 10 second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds.
But Maryland flipped the script in the second half, outscoring the Spartans 26-8 in the paint. For much of the game, the Terps leaned heavily on 6-foot-1-inch forward Faith Masonius to contest taller players in the paint. The senior captain finished with 12 points, one of five Maryland players to reach double figures.
“Faith is a winner,” Frese said. “Obviously, having her mom as a coach, she understands the game. She drew five fouls today. Definitely undersized, but [her] boxing out was tremendous.”
Diamond Miller filled up the stat sheet for the Terps, recording 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. Sellers added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Maryland tallied 19 assists to 10 turnovers. After posting a negative assist-to-turnover ratio in six of their first 10 games, the Terps are showing signs that their roster of five transfer players, four returners and four freshmen is learning to play together. Over its six-game winning streak, Maryland has managed an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-to-1.
“When we’re sharing the basketball — this two-to-one ratio — we’re able to do a lot of things,” Frese said. “So being able to secure the basketball and take really good shots on the offensive end matters.”
The Terps won despite surrendering 20 offensive rebounds and 19 three-pointers. For the afternoon, the Spartans attempted 44 threes, shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc compared to 39.5% from two.
After beginning Big Ten play with five games against unranked teams, Maryland will start to encounter the conference’s elite teams, beginning with a Jan. 12 trip to No. 6 Indiana (13-1, 3-1 Big Ten).
Sapna Bansil is a pediatric occupational therapist turned journalist who is enrolled in the graduate program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.