The seventh-ranked Maryland women's basketball team combined one of its most complete defensive efforts of the season with another in a long line of virtuoso performances from Alyssa Thomas to throttle Virginia, 73-44, Sunday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
Thomas finished with game highs of 27 points — two short of matching a career best — and 13 rebounds, to go along with four assists, two blocks and a steal. The Terps limited their border rival to one field goal over 13 and a half minutes bridging the halves for an 11th win in 12 games.
Junior center Alicia DeVaughn had 14 points, and freshman forward-center Malina Howard had 12 points and eight rebounds for Maryland (21-4, 12-2 ACC), which beat the Cavaliers for a fifth consecutive time thanks in part to 53 percent shooting and a 40-23 margin in rebounding.
"We had a lot of fun tonight," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "A really dominant performance. I really liked how we ended before halftime, and then the second half was probably one of our best 20 minutes that we've put together in a long time. Just love the energy that we were able to play with."
So resounding was the result that about the only suspense for much of the second half was whether Thomas would reach a career high in points. The reigning ACC Player of the Year's jumper with 6:27 left in regulation gave Maryland a 64-36 lead, and the first-team All-American remained in the game for the next four-plus minutes.
Those would be the final points for the junior forward, and although a new career high will have to wait for another day, Thomas contributed to a defensive onslaught that yielded just three field goals in the second half during which the Cavaliers shot 16 percent to lose for the fourth time in five games.
Junior guard Ataira Franklin led Virginia (15-10, 7-7) with 21 points, but she was the only Cavaliers player to score more than seven. Compounding Virginia's offensive woes was losing starting junior guard Kelsey Wolfe to a knee injury in the first half.
"Defensively I think we did a pretty good job," said DeVaughn, who was 6-for-7 from the free throw line. "We had a couple dips, but we talked to each other and talked about no dribble penetration, and we just locked in on defense."
One of those lapses came when Virginia scored eight in a row to close to 25-23 with 7:10 left until halftime. Frese called timeout, and out of the stoppage, the Terps scored 12 of the final 14 points heading into intermission. Thomas factored into half of those points with two foul shots and a putback and assisting on a layup by junior guard Katie Rutan (11 points, 3-for-4 3-pointers).
Maryland opened the second half with 12 consecutive points, including a layup and two jumpers from Thomas. Rutan sank a 3-pointer off an assist from Thomas, and when Thomas made the second of two foul shots, the Terps were ahead, 49-25, with 14:45 to play.
Senior guard China Crosby's 3-pointer moments later ended Virginia's extended scoring drought, but Maryland used an 11-2 flurry to all but secure a second straight victory by at least 29 points.
"It's just a mindset," Thomas said of the surges to end the first half and open the second. "We like to finish out the game strong, and we know Virginia's a 3-point shooting team, and they could come in and get right back in the game. So we just had to lock in and come out strong."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun