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Maryland puts away Illinois in first half, cruises to 12th straight win

COLLEGE PARK, MD. — With the regular season moving into the final weeks, the Maryland women's basketball team continued on the path to perfection in the Big Ten by dispatching visiting Illinois, 84-59, on Thursday night.

The third-ranked Terrapins (24-1, 12-0) removed virtually all doubt regarding the outcome with a pair of first-half runs, including 14-2 to close the second quarter, to spark a 12th consecutive triumph. Maryland also continued the best start to a season in program history by remaining unbeaten in seven all-time meetings with the Fighting Illini.

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The Terrapins, the only Big Ten team without a conference loss, kept their hold on first place in the Big Ten by one game over No. 13 Ohio State. The Buckeyes and Terrapins are set to play on Feb. 20 in Columbus, Ohio, in a showdown likely to determine the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

"I thought we started taking what the defense gave us," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "Sometimes, early, I thought we were trying to kind of make it harder than what it needed to be with the turnovers that we had, but I thought once we kind of figured out and settled in I thought we did a terrific job in terms of sharing the basketball."

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Senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough led Maryland with 29 points, including 6-for-12 shooting on 3-pointers. She added six assists, five rebounds and three steals. The two-time first-team all-Big Ten selection moved into fifth in career points (1,934) at Maryland, passing Vicky Bullett with a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter at Xfinity Center.

Senior center Brionna Jones had 12 points and 11 rebounds for her 17th double-double, the most this season in the Big Ten, and 50th of her career. Jones also ascended to fourth in career rebounds at Maryland with 1,090, passing Tianna Hawkins early in the third quarter.

Both Waker-Kimbrough and Jones will have their jersey numbers raised to the rafters at Xfinity Center in Maryland's final regular season game on Feb. 26.

Against Illinois (8-17, 3-9), freshman point guard Destiny Slocum dished out a career-high 13 assists. She has 148 this season, passing Kristi Toliver for third most in season in Maryland history among freshmen. Toliver's total came in 2005-06 during the Terrapins' run to the national championship.

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"She's like the best point guard I've ever heard of," Slocum said of Toliver, who signed with the Washington Mystics this week after helping the Los Angeles Sparks win the WNBA championship last season. "We hear about her every single day, so that's something really big."

Maryland, which had 25 assists on 31 field goals, put the game out of reach after the Illini closed to 26-18 with 9:09 to go in the second quarter. Walker-Kimbrough's steal and layup pushed the Terrapins' lead back to double digits, and soon after that, Jones collected an offensive rebound and scored on the putback.

Illinois called timeout with 5:30 to go, and out of the stoppage, the Terrapins reeled off 10 in a row, including a 3-pointer by junior guard Kristen Confroy and Walker-Kimbrough's three-point play with 57 seconds to play.

Maryland led at halftime, 40-20. Illinois, meanwhile, committed six turnovers over the final nine minutes of the first half and had just three field goals in the second quarter. The Illini have lost seveb straight.

An 18-2 burst in the first quarter provided initial breathing room for the Terrapins, who did most of their scoring in that time on jumpers while Illinois defenders collapsed on Jones. Walker-Kimbrough began the push with a 3-pointer, and Jones added a three-point play.

Freshman forward-center Brianna Fraser made a layup, and Walker-Kimbrough scored the next six points prior to Slocum's 3-pointer from well beyond the arc. The lead soon grew to 20-7 with 1:29 to play on freshman guard Kaila Charles's fast-break layup.

Charles finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.

"What a great basketball team," Illinois coach Matt Bollant said of Maryland. "I have great admiration for what they do. They show up every night."

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