With a roster severely depleted because of injuries to its starting back court, the 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team got a breakout scoring performance from a freshman point guard and double figures from three others to pull away from No. 24 Miami, 84-62, on Thursday night at Comcast Center.
Chloe Pavlech’s season-high 20 points, 14 of which came in the first half, included 8-for-11 shooting and 3-for-6 shooting on three-pointers. Additionally, junior all-American Alyssa Thomas contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Terrapins’ eighth victory in nine games and third over a ranked opponent.
“I think they thought I couldn’t shoot or score, so I found myself honestly wide open a few times,” Pavlech said. “I don’t know. My teammates realized I had the hot hand, and they kept giving me the ball, and the ball was going in.”
Senior forward Tianna Hawkins scored 17 of her 18 points in the second half after missing all six of her field goals before intermission. She also had a game-high 11 rebounds, and freshman center Malina Howard added 10 points and six rebounds for Maryland, which ended a four-game losing streak to the Hurricanes.
The win bumped Maryland (12-3, 3-1 ACC) to third in the conference after it went 2-1 in this latest stretch against three ranked ACC opponents.
“We did talk about no one in our locker room, there was not one player that had beaten Miami,” Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said. “And so that’s a pride factor, the fact that they had had our number for quite a while.”
Maryland shot 46 percent, including 54 percent in the second half when it opened a 49-35 lead thanks to a 17-4 run that began with junior guard Katie Rutan’s three-pointer and two foul shots from Thomas shortly before the break. Hawkins then scored nine straight points for Maryland to start the second half while Miami (12-3, 3-1) struggled to score.
The Hurricanes got to 50-40 with 14 minutes 39 seconds to play, but Maryland scored 12 of the next 14 points, and the lead expanded to 62-42 following an 8-0 flurry in which Howard scored on an offensive rebound and swished a jumper moments later.
The Terrapins committed just three turnovers in the second half and finished with 12 overall, five fewer than their average. Maryland limited Miami to 29 percent from the field in the second half and 10 percent for the game from three-point range while owning points in the paint, 50-30, and rebounding margin, 49-36.
“We knew we were going to win that game,” Thomas said. “We never let up and never let Miami get comfortable, and our freshmen just played like they’re veterans who have been in this situation and knew what to do.”
For Pavlech, that meant sinking jumpers when Miami collapsed its defense to try to match Maryland’s might inside. Taking over the majority of the ball-handling duties because of season-ending ACL tears to Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy, Pavlech had not scored more than 10 points this season or made more than two three-pointers.
Forward Tierney Pfirman, the third freshman on the team, added six points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while committing only one turnover in 26 minutes.
“The story of the game to me was their newcomers,” Miami Coach Katie Meier said. “Without a doubt it was their newcomers. Those were the daggers, those shots by Chloe or Tierney and Malina Howard.”