During the three weeks since their last loss, the members of the 10th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team rolled through five opponents with an eye toward a rematch against the Atlantic Coast Conference rival that beat them.
The Terps opened a double-digit lead Thursday night over No. 15 North Carolina in the first half and turned the game into a runaway in an 85-59 victory at Comcast Center.
Senior forward Tianna Hawkins' game-high 25 points led four Maryland players in double figures, and the ACC's leading scorer added eight rebounds in the Terrapins' sixth straight win and 12th in 13 games.
Junior forward Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists after a brief scare when she fell hard in the first half and had to be examined briefly in the locker room, and freshman guard Chloe Pavlech scored 18 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
"We went down to North Carolina and gave them a game we should have won," said Hawkins, referring to the 60-57 loss Jan. 3 at Carmichael Arena. "Today was all about revenge, getting back what we deserve. I think as a team we came back and fought the whole game."
Ahead by 12 at halftime and by 11 with 17:25 left in regulation, Maryland pulled away with a 14-4 run in which Thomas scored seven points and junior guard Kate Rutan (10 points) made a 3-pointer. Hawkins also had two offensive rebound putbacks for baskets, with her second providing a 55-34 lead at 12:48.
Maryland (16-3, 7-1 ACC) shot 58percent and held advantages in points in the paint, 40-28; points off turnovers, 21-15; and rebounding, 40-31. The Terrapins overcame 21 turnovers, in part by making 18 of 25 free throws and limiting North Carolina to 36 percent shooting, including 1-for-19 from 3-point range.
Krista Gross and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt each scored a team-high 15 points for the Tar Heels (18-2, 6-1), who had an 11-game win streak end and fell to third place in the conference behind Duke and Maryland. Ruffin-Pratt missed 11 of 14 shots and spent a chunk of the second half on the bench when she picked up her fourth personal foul with 15:51 to play.
"We played our game today," Thomas said. "We were the more physical team out there today, and they really had no answer for us."
The Terps were the first to gain separation in the first half after an 8-2 run in which Thomas factored into all of Maryland's points. She made consecutive field goals for a 13-8 lead, and after Ruffin-Pratt hit a pair of foul shots for North Carolina, Thomas assisted on two Hawkins baskets.
North Carolina countered by scoring the next eight in a row for its first lead since the first basket of the game. But the Terps' Pavlech hit a jumper with the shot clock winding down to reclaim the lead and made a 3-pointer on a fast break for a 22-18 lead. After Pavlech drew a charge on the Tar Heels' ensuing possession, freshman center Malina Howard hit a jumper, and Hawkins followed with another to raise the margin to 26-18.
Moments later, the arena went silent after Thomas hit the court hard trying to control a loose ball with 5:14 to go. The reigning ACC Player of the Year had leaped near midcourt and was unable to land cleanly with the Tar Heels' Brittany Rountree crouching underneath her.
Thomas went to the locker room, and Maryland expanded the lead in her absence to 29-22 on a free throw and layup by Rutan, who moved into the starting lineup Sunday in a 66-57 victory over Georgia Tech because of a knee injury to freshman Tierney Pfirman.
Thomas came back into the game with 2:28 to go in the first half, and Maryland continued to apply pressure. via back-to-back-Hawkins jumpers. North Carolina Coach Sylvia Hatchell promptly called timeout, but the Terrapins closed with four of the final five points for a 37-25 advantage.