MINNEAPOLIS — Diamond Miller had 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists to drive No. 5 Maryland women’s basketball past Illinois, 73-58, in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday night.
Abby Meyers added 14 points and five rebounds and Lavender Briggs scored 11 points for the Terps (25-5), who won their seventh straight game and will play No. 7 Iowa in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
“Defense wins games, right?” Meyers said.
No. 2 Indiana faces No. 14 Ohio State in the first semifinal at Target Center, the first-time host of this tournament. The championship game is on Sunday afternoon.
Maryland’s 94-68 victory over Iowa on Feb. 21 was the worst loss of the season for the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s fans helped set a Big Ten Tournament record for a quarterfinal game with an announced crowd of 8,577.
“It’s going to feel like a road game,” said Terrapins coach Brenda Frese, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about 25 miles from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Makira Cook had 19 points, Genesis Bryant added 17 points, Adalia McKenzie scored 12 points and Kendall Bostic pitched in 10 points and 16 rebounds for the Illini (22-9), who fell to 0-14 all-time against the Terps. Illinois didn’t have a single point off the bench.
Maryland, in its ninth season in the Big Ten, is 20-3 all-time in the conference tournament. The Terps showed their experience with a 20-to-10 assist-to-turnover ratio and their tenacity by limiting Illinois to 5 of 16 shooting from 3-point range. The Illini, who lead the league in 3-point shooting, set the program single-season record with 224 made 3-pointers.
Bryant, who’s the second-leading 3-point shooter in the Big Ten at 42.3% coming into the game, went 2-for-6 from deep. She had only two points at halftime, and coach Shauna Green said she thought Maryland’s athleticism and length on defense caused her team to hesitate too much to shoot.
“That’s the only time they’ll hear me yelling at them, when they’re not shooting ’em,” Green said.
Bryant’s layup late in the first quarter gave Illinois a 16-11 lead, but Maryland used a 22-4 surge over the next 7:42 to take command. Miller made a sneaky high-low pass to a wide-open Meyers underneath, where she flipped in a backward layup for a 30-20 lead.
Miller is the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes. Cook is fourth.
The most experienced member of Frese’s program, Miller was joined by nine new players this season. Meyers and Briggs are both transfers, as is the fourth senior starter Brinae Alexander. The Terps have rounded into form down the stretch, with one loss — 96-82 at Iowa on Feb. 2 — in their last 13 games.
They’ve got depth, too, with freshman Bri McDaniel coming off the bench. The Chicago native had nine points, two rebounds and one block and a team-high plus-23 rating, even taking a charge midway through the fourth quarter with Maryland leading by 21 points.
“That was very contagious energy that she was able to bring,” Frese said.
Said McDaniel: “Once I came on the floor, I just wanted to bring a spark on defense.”
The Illini, whose best win was over Iowa at home on Jan. 1, must wait nine days to find out their placement in their NCAA Tournament. As the sixth-place team in this particularly loaded league, they’re a sure bet to make the tourney for the first time in 20 years. In their first season under Green, they posted their first winning record since 2012-13.
“We’re not there yet,” Green said. “We’ve just got to continue to work.”
Big Ten Tournament semifinals
No. 3 seed Maryland vs. No. 2 seed Iowa
At Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, approximately 5 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network