Defense carries No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball to 80-56 victory over Rutgers

COLLEGE PARK — If Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese was worried about a letdown in intensity after a loss to then-No. 6 Indiana on Thursday, the Terps wasted little time putting her at ease.

The No. 9 Terps forced 11 first-quarter turnovers and built a 16-point halftime lead before coasting to an 80-56 win over Rutgers on Sunday in their first Big Ten matchup at Xfinity Center this season.


Maryland senior Brinae Alexander, a Vanderbilt transfer who scored her 1,000th point in the third quarter, led all scorers with 20 points. Diamond Miller also added 17 for the Terps (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten), while Kaylene Smikle led the Scarlet Knights (8-11, 2-5) with 19.

“A thousand points means a lot to me,” Alexander said. “It’s my fifth year in college and it just shows me the trust my teammates have in me. It feels great to accomplish that here. The bench was screaming at me to shoot it, so I just did and it went in.”

Maryland's Abby Meyers scores on a fast break during the first quarter of Sunday's 80-56 win over Rutgers at Xfinity Center in College Park.

The win was Maryland’s second over Rutgers this year — it defeated the Scarlet Knights, 78-67, earlier this month in Piscataway, New Jersey.

After Rutgers took an early 5-2 lead, Maryland’s defensive pressure took over. The Terps used combinations of zone, man, presses and traps to go on a 10-0 run and take a 15-5 advantage.

Maryland started to assert itself on the other end, too, using its defensive pressure to create fast-break opportunities.

In their 19-11 run after falling behind early, the Terps got two 3-pointers from Abby Meyers and one each from Alexander and Elisa Pinzan to take a 23-16 lead after the first quarter. In the same span, Miller and Myers added layups.

Maryland essentially put the game away early in the second quarter, going on a 14-2 run in the first 3:28 of the quarter to make it 37-18.

The Terps were dominant in the paint, where they outscored Rutgers, 38-22.

“I thought we got back to who we were today on both ends of the floor, forcing turnovers defensively and then sharing the basketball on the offensive end,” Frese said. “It was great to see the tone we set early on, forcing 11 turnovers in the first quarter. You kind of saw the waves we could throw at them defensively.”

Other factors affected Rutgers, and the Terps took advantage. The Scarlet Knights only dressed eight for the game, and starter Kassondra Brown got into early foul trouble, picking up three in the first six minutes.

Maryland's Abby Meyers, left, battles Rutgers' Kai Carter for a rebound in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Xfinity Center in College Park.

Meyers said the defensive intensity approaching the game was something they’d been working on in practice.

“We really came in with the mentality to be aggressive on the defensive end,” Meyers said. “We actually were working on how to steal the ball without fouling, just fundamental stuff. I think that all translated very well today.”

The Terps, who will face Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road this week, continued their streak of winning each game after their four losses this winter.

“We knew this was a big game for us,” Frese said. “Rutgers had come in here with some momentum after winning the last two, so this was important.”

Rutgers coach Coquese Washington said that she wasn’t surprised about what she saw from the Maryland defense.

“They are who they are,” she said. “They’re a long, athletic team. They switch screens, press, and try to speed the game up. They’re really aggressive on the boards. They’re ranked top 10 in the country for a reason, and their strength is their belief in their press and their belief in themselves [defensively], and they get turnovers out of it.”


No. 9 Maryland at Wisconsin

Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Stream: BTN+