The lowest point last season for the 10th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team came following an unlikely loss to Virginia Tech. Out with a hand injury that day was Alyssa Thomas, but the Terps junior forward made sure the outcome would be drastically different this time.
Thomas finished with a season-high 26 points and a career-high 18 rebounds to go along with six assists and three blocks, narrowly missing her second triple-double, and a pair of freshmen scored every point in a decisive second-half run that triggered a 74-45 victory Sunday at Cassell Coliseum.
The Terps (13-3, 4-1 ACC) collected their first conference road win of the season, won for the ninth time in 10 games and beat Virginia Tech for the seventh time in eight meetings. Maryland also won in Blacksburg for the first time in three years in making good for last season's 75-69 defeat at Comcast Center.
"Today was all about pride for us," Thomas said. "Last year we went out and didn't play the way we wanted to play. Today was just kind of a statement, kind of to let them know we are Maryland."
The Terps limited Virginia Tech to 28 percent shooting, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, made 14 of 18 from the foul line and assisted on 19 of 27 field goals. They also held a 43-33 advantage in rebounding, although the Hokies had eight more offensively, and shot 54 percent.
Maryland was able to overcome 22 turnovers thanks in part to defensive attention on Monet Tellier, who had 31 points in last season's game. The junior guard missed 13 of 17 shots Sunday, went 0-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with 11 points and four rebounds with an assist and two turnovers.
Tellier's foul shot began a 7-2 run in the second half that allowed Virginia Tech to climb within 43-31 with 15 minutes, 15 seconds to play, but the rally stopped there with eight consecutive points from freshmen Malina Howard and Tierney Pfirman.
Howard's jumper made it 45-31, and Pfirman (11 points, seven rebounds) controlled a rebound off teammate Katie Rutan's missed jumper, scored on the putback and was fouled. She made the bonus free throw, and Howard sank a 3-pointer moments later for a 20-point buffer with 11:04 to play.
"In our pregame we talked about how devastating [last season's loss] was and how this year was about pride and coming out and representing Maryland well and going out there and getting the win," said Howard, who had seven points and five rebounds.
The Terps were on the verge of pulling away in the first half following an 11-2 burst that began with Pfirman's 3-pointer. Rutan was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all her free throws, and consecutive baskets from Thomas and junior guard Sequoia Austin prompted a timeout from Hokies coach Dennis Wolff.
Virginia Tech (7-9, 1-4) began running its offense much more crisply shortly thereafter, and Tellier's field goal drew the Hokies to 28-16. But Pfirman collected a pass on the wing from freshman Chloe Pavlech and sank her second 3-pointer of the half before the teams traded baskets three times heading into intermission.
Thomas scored four of Maryland's final six points of the first half after having factored into 21 of the Terps' first 26 points. She also either scored or assisted on Maryland's opening 15 points and contributed to a defensive push that limited Virginia Tech to no points in the first five minutes and to one field goal over the first 10.
"Obviously to watch [Thomas] tonight just showed what makes her so special," Terps coach Brenda Frese said. "Her versatility, she played four positions for us, point guard, wing, post position, especially when we were in some foul trouble in the first half. Great for our team to come out and play the way were able to play defensively, rebounding and obviously shooting the basketball."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun