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Defense again carries No. 10 Terps women in 72-54 win at Rutgers

Ten days ago, it didn’t matter that the Maryland women’s basketball team put Rutgers’ offense in a vise grip. The Terps shot nearly 60 percent from the field against an elite Scarlet Knights defense, and that was more than enough.

On Sunday in Piscataway, N.J., No. 10 Maryland needed that same defensive focus to return, because its lights-out offense didn’t. In holding Rutgers to 37 percent shooting and one 3-pointer and forcing 22 turnovers in a 72-54 win, the Terps proved why they’re the Big Ten Conference’s most balanced team, and also the favorites to earn their fourth straight-regular season title.

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“The defense picked up and we got a lot more aggressive,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

With their seventh straight win, the Terps (22-3, 11-1) extended their lead in the conference standings to two games over second-place Ohio State. After a three-game road trip, Maryland returns home for a game Thursday night against Purdue, which it defeated last season for its third straight conference tournament title.

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As leading scorer Kaila Charles (10 points) struggled to find her touch and stay out of foul trouble Sunday, fellow wing Eleanna Christinaki led the way for the Terps. The junior finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, one of five players in double figures for Maryland.

Terps senior guard Kristen Confroy had 12 points, including her 200th career 3-pointer, while sophomore forward Stephanie Jones (Aberdeen) and reserve wing Ieshia Small chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively. Confroy is second all time on Maryland’s list for 3-pointers, trailing only Kristi Toliver, who made 300.

“We lost an awful lot [to graduation and transfers] and it speaks volumes of the character and chemistry we have in the locker room,” Frese said of how the Terps have found ways to win. “Everyone doubted them and counted them out this season. They just know they need each other and it's a true definition of a team.”

Maryland, which entered the game as the only league team ranking in the top four in conference play in both scoring offense and scoring defense, pulled away with a 21-8 second quarter to enter halftime up 43-27. Rutgers (18-9, 6-7) got as close as 10 in the fourth quarter but couldn't capitalize on its rebounding advantage (36-30) or Maryland's off shooting afternoon (44.6 percent from the field).

NOTE: Both teams wore pink warmup shirts and the cheerleaders had pink pompoms as part of Play4Kay week. Women's basketball teams around the country honor Kay Yow, the former N.C. State coach, who died of cancer in 2009. Rutgers honored cancer doctors and breast cancer survivors at the half.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Maryland (22-3): Charles 5-12 0-0 10, Jones 5-10 3-4 13, Christinaki 6-10 5-6 18, Confroy 4-9 1-2 12, Lewis 1-5 1-2 3, Ellison 0-0 0-0 0, Fraser 1-5 2-2 4, Myers 0-2 2-2 2, Small 3-3 4-6 10. Totals 25-56 18-24 72.

Rutgers (18-9): Carey 3-8 3-4 9, Harris 6-10 1-2 13, Cryor 3-11 3-3 9, Greene 1-4 2-2 4, Scaife 5-14 0-0 10, Gilles 0-1 0-0 0, Jenkins 1-1 0-0 2, Fitzpatrick 1-3 0-0 3, Rollins 0-2 4-4 4, Totals 20-54 13-15 54.

Maryland 22, 21, 12, 17—72

Rutgers 19, 8, 17, 10—54

3-point goals—Maryland 4-9 (Christinaki 1-2, Confroy 3-7), Rutgers 1-12 (Carey 0-1, Cryor 0-3, Greene 0-2, Scaife 0-1, Gilles 0-1, Fitzpatrick 1-3, Rollins 0-1). Assists—Maryland 13 (Lewis 5), Rutgers 9 (Cryor 6). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Maryland 30 (Christinaki 6), Rutgers 36 (Harris 11). Total fouls—Maryland 15, Rutgers 18. Technical fouls—Rutgers Team 1. A—3,545.

Sophomore wing Kaila Charles led the way again with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

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