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Maryland women's basketball beats Syracuse to stay unbeaten

The Maryland bench cheers Tierney Pfirman, (22), after scoring against Syracuse in the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in College Park. Maryland won, 82-64.
The Maryland bench cheers Tierney Pfirman, (22), after scoring against Syracuse in the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in College Park. Maryland won, 82-64. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)

Coming off consecutive Final Four appearances and with another talented and deep roster, the fifth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team isn't going to be pushed too frequently in the nonconference part of its schedule. That's why coach Brenda Frese was eager for her players to face a potential challenge against their first ranked opponent in No. 20 Syracuse.

The Orange's relentless pressure bothered Maryland in stretches, but the Terps prevailed, 82-64, behind a strong fourth quarter combined with frontcourt supremacy and the all-around performance of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough Wednesday night in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at Xfinity Center.

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The junior guard had 19 points, a season-high eight assists and seven rebounds in Maryland's first game since winning the Paradise Jam in St.Thomas, Virgin Islands, over the Thanksgiving break. There, Walker-Kimbrough was named to the all-tournament first team, and the versatile player got started again quickly to help Maryland (7-0) stay unbeaten.

Maryland's scoring leader this season had 10 points in the first quarter to finish as one of four players in double figures. Junior center Brionna Jones (Aberdeen) added 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds, and reserve senior forward Tierney Pfirman had a season-high 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists despite a sore hamstring.

"I thought [the game] was placed at the right time as we're building as a team," Frese said. "To see a press for 40 minutes, to see that kind of pressure, at times we handled it better than other times. It took us a little bit to get into a groove together as a team, but we need that ... to prepare us for what's out ahead."

The Terps committed 22 turnovers, their second-highest total this season and second game in a row with at least that many, but also had 22 assists. Maryland shot 60 percent in the second half and 51 percent for the game, in which it had a 55-31 edge in rebounding and 33-14 in bench points. The Terps held the Orange (4-2) to 31 percent shooting overall.

The decisive run for Maryland began with redshirt senior guard Brene Moseley's 3-pointer for the first points of the fourth quarter. Moseley assisted on Pfirman's turnaround jumper that expanded the lead to 63-50, and after a Syracuse timeout, the Terps stretched the lead to 67-53 with 7:30 to play on another jumper by Pfirman and Chloe Pavlech's two free throws.

Nine of 11 players scored for Maryland, which has one ranked opponent left before Big Ten play. That showdown comes against No.1 Connecticut on Dec. 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"It shows our versatility," Walker-Kimbrough said of the balanced scoring. "It shows how deep we are and how good we're getting and how good we're going to be. Tierney was able to pick up the slack and score for us. In different games it's different people, and I think today it showed."

Maryland opened its largest lead of the third quarter with six points in a row, including two layups by Walker-Kimbrough. Moseley's jumper made it 49-35 with seven minutes to play, and Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman called timeout. The Orange emerged from the stoppage with consecutive field goals and got within 53-46 on Alexis Peterson's layup and one of two free throws by Briana Day.

Jones scored on a put-back, but Syracuse ended the third quarter with Peterson's two foul shots to trim the deficit to 58-50.

The Terps went into halftime ahead by 12 after strong finishes in both quarters. They ended the second quarter on a 10-2 run that began with Pfirman making a turnaround jumper in the lane off a pass from Moseley. After Moseley's fast-break layup, Jones hit a jumper and a layup, and Moseley closed with another layup.

"For us, it's about the name on our jersey and bettering ourselves," Pfirman said. "We're not really focused on who we're playing in the game. We're just focused on what we can do to make ourselves better."

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