The ninth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team had begun to pull away in its regular season finale Sunday afternoon when the Terrapins backslid briefly, surrendering consecutive three-pointers near the end of the first half that allowed Wake Forest a glimmer of hope.
Then in the closing seconds before intermission, senior forward Tianna Hawkins collected a pass from Alyssa Thomas on a fast break, pulled up behind the three-point line and swished a jumper at the buzzer to send Maryland into the locker room with momentum.
The Terrapins never looked back after that in an 88-61 victory in front of 6,474 at Comcast Center on senior day in which Hawkins finished with game highs of 18 points and 11 rebounds for her ACC-leading 18th double-double. It was the first time Hawkins has made multiple three-pointers in a game, underscoring the versatility of the ACC’s leading scorer who’s having the most productive season of her career.
“It was just a great feeling to see how much support our fans give us each day,” said Hawkins, who along with senior Caitlin Adams was recognized during a pregame ceremony. “It was a great feeling to have my teammates have my back and also my coaches.”
Four other players scored in double figures for Maryland (23-6, 14-4 ACC), which ended a two-game slide and beat Wake Forest for the 14th consecutive time. Thomas finished with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting with eight rebounds and seven assists, and junior guard Sequoia Austin had a career-high 15 points.
Maryland shot 53 percent, outrebounded the Demon Deacons 40-26 and owned a 42-24 advantage in points in the paint and 24-10 on second-chance points. The Terrapins forced 20 turnovers and got 30 points from their reserves, including 13 on 5-of-8 shooting from freshman forward-center Malina Howard.
“It starts with our confidence,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought you saw us play really aggressive and with confidence, shooting shots and really making shots easier for one another. I thought our guard play was really good, being able to get passes inside and out offensively. We know our defense can always be there, but to be able to have both was really good to see.”
A 19-3 run early in the game got Maryland started, and it included seven points from Austin. By the time she stole the ball and dribbled the length of the court for a layup, the Terrapins were ahead, 21-6. The margin expanded to 19 moments later, but Wake Forest (12-18, 5-13) closed to 35-22 before Hawkins’s three-pointer.
The No. 3 rebounder in school history made her second three-pointer with 14 minutes 23 seconds left in regulation for a 54-30 lead that capped a 16-5 flurry coming out of halftime. Hawkins, an All-Met at Riverdale Baptist, had made four three-pointers combined in her previous 130 games.
“Very important,” Thomas said when asked about ensuring Hawkins a victory in her last regular season game at Comcast. “With everything that she’s done for us and this program, we just wanted her to go out with a bang on senior day.”
The Terrapins made 5 of 12 three-pointers overall in their final tuneup before the ACC tournament starts Thursday in Greensboro, N.C. The Terrapins will have a first-round bye and are the No. 2 seed after winning a coin flip against North Carolina. The teams split during the regular season and finished even in all the other tiebreakers.
Maryland will face the winner of the Wake Forest-Georgia Tech first-round game at 6 p.m. Friday.