COLLEGE PARK — The No. 10 Maryland women's basketball team never gave Clemson a chance Sunday afternoon, leaning on senior forward Alyssa Thomas, considerable bench contributions and multiple double-digit runs to pull away for a 95-43 victory in front of 6,471 at Comcast Center.
Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists without a turnover. Her performance helped push the Terps' winning streak to three games in advance of a demanding stretch that will go a long way toward determining seeding in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in less than a month.
"You want to build confidence like we've been able to do," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "I think we're getting a tremendous feel for one another and making easy plays for each other. Taking those elements now going back on the road, where it's a lot more difficult, will be key."
The Terps play four of their next five on the road, including a Feb. 17 date against archrival and fifth-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Sunday's runaway afforded Frese the opportunity to rest front-line players in preparation for the final portion of the regular season.
Thomas, for instance, went to the bench for good with 8:20 left in regulation and Maryland ahead, 70-37, courtesy of 10 straight points. Maryland began the game by scoring 12 in a row for a 16-2 lead, and a 10-0 surge several minutes later made it 33-12 with 5:37 to go until intermission.
Thomas "wasn't in [full-]beast mode today, just mini-beast mode, which I appreciate, " Clemson coach Audra Smith said.
In surpassing 90 points for a second straight game, Maryland (19-4, 7-3 ACC) upended its longtime conference rival for a 14th consecutive time in their final regular-season meeting as members of the ACC. The Terps are playing their final season in the ACC before moving to the Big Ten Conference.
Maryland remained in fourth place in the conference with six games left before the start of the ACC tournament March 5 in Greensboro, N.C. The top four teams in the conference receive double byes into the quarterfinals and avoid the chance of having to play five games in as many days.
The Terps forced 27 turnovers, their second most this season, and scored 33 points off them; outrebounded Clemson 40-24, including 17-6 offensively; and owned a 22-3 margin in second-chance points and 42-16 in bench scoring. Maryland saw 12 of 13 players on its roster score, with three reaching double figures, and had 10 players log double-digit minutes.
"Once the starters get going, then that feeds into us, and we keep it going," said Terps reserve forward Tierney Pfirman, who had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting with three assists, three rebounds and two steals. "We step in for them, and we are supposed to produce like that, so that's what we did."
Freshman center Brionna Jones (Aberdeen) contributed 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks, and classmate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 11 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks for Maryland, which shot 57 percent, had 29 assists on 39 field goals and has won its past three games by an average of 42 points.
Junior forward Nikki Dixon led the Tigers (11-14, 3-8) with 13 points but committed a game-high seven turnovers. Senior guard Chancie Dunn (10 points) was the only other Clemson player to score in double figures.
"Emphasis lately has been to hit the glass hard,"Jones said. "When we do that, we get second-chance options. When we get defensive rebounds, we can push it in transition like we want to."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun