Playing its first game in nine days, the ninth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team stormed ahead of Delaware early in the second half, then withstood a rally and used stifling defense down the stretch to pull away for a 69-53 victory Thursday night before an announced record crowd of 5,089 at Bob Carpenter Center.
Senior center Tianna Hawkins led the Terps with 16 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, and junior guard-forward Alyssa Thomas and junior guard Katie Rutan each added 13 points in front of the largest crowd in Delaware school history to witness a women's basketball game.
In running its all-time record against the Blue Hens to 11-0, Maryland also received contributions from freshman point guard Chloe Pavlech, whose two second-half 3-pointers came at critical junctures. She also had five assists and three steals with just one turnover and during one stretch in the second half guarded Player of the Year candidate Elena Delle Donne, who returned after missing all but two games this season while combating Lyme disease.
"Just a tremendous game, I thought," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "It was a phenomenal atmosphere. Great crowd. What a battle. I thought both teams were really, really good back and forth, especially when they cut it to three there in the second half. I'm really proud of our team. I feel like we're battle-tested."
After the Terps (8-2) built a 48-34 advantage with 14 minutes, 46 seconds left in regulation, Delaware made a game of it when Delle Donne briefly regained her shooting rhythm. The All-American's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 10, and she closed the Blue Hens' 12-2 burst with another 3 that got Delaware within 52-49 with 8:05 to play.
But the Terps never allowed the margin to get any closer, thanks to 3-pointers from Rutan and Pavlech surrounding a jumper by Delle Donne with seven minutes left that would be the last field goal of the game for Delaware (5-3).
When Pavlech's first 3-pointer swished to make it 58-51, Delaware called timeout, and Maryland came out of the break with seven unanswered points, including Pavlech's second 3.
"Coach B talked about in the locker room how everyone loves to silence the crowd," Pavlech said. "When Katie hit the 3, you could tell just the whole Delaware stands were like, 'Ugh.' When I hit the 3, then it was an even bigger 'Ugh.' So it was just great, and it was fun."
The Terps as usual controlled the interior with their frontcourt rotation that in large part was responsible for a rebounding margin of 44-35 and a 17-6 advantage in second-chance points.
Hawkins was particularly assertive inside after halftime, scoring three straight baskets on offensive rebounds. The All-ACC second-team selection last season also had 14 of Maryland's 17points bridging the halves, including 12 consecutive points in that span.
Maryland limited its Colonial Athletic Association opponent to 33 percent shooting, made all 10 of its free throws and committed only five turnovers in the second half. It also forced Delle Donne into taking 23 shots to score her game-high 19 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
"We cut it down to whatever it was, three or four, [and] took some ill-advised shots," Delaware coach Tina Martin said. "Then Maryland does what Maryland does. They're a very good basketball team. They're the No. 1 rebounding team in the country, and we could just not keep them off the boards."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun