Three days after a dispiriting loss to its most bitter rival, the seventh-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team got resurgent performances from its top two players and opened the second half with a decisive flurry to dispatch Clemson, 75-45, Thursday night at Comcast Center.
Senior forward Tianna Hawkins began the onslaught by scoring 17 of her game-high 30 points in the first half, and junior forward Alyssa Thomas added 17 points, including 13 following intermission, to lead the Terrapins to their ninth win in 10 games to move on from Monday’s 71-56 loss against No. 5 Duke in Durham, N.C.
Hawkins and Thomas combined to make 17 of 30 shots against Clemson after missing 23 of 30 field goal attempts Monday. Hawkins came within three points of matching her career high, and her 12 rebounds were a game high. Thomas added eight rebounds, and freshman center Malina Howard had a career-high 10 as Maryland overpowered the Tigers inside.
In beating Clemson for a 13th straight time, the Terrapins (20-4, 11-2 ACC) had three players reach double figures in rebounds, owned a 48-32 advantage overall in rebounding and were well ahead in second-chance points, 15-5, and points in the paint, 36-26. Maryland also forced 21 turnovers, shot 65 percent in the second half and limited the Tigers to 1-for-11 shooting from three-point range.
“I thought it was a slow start for us,” said Coach Brenda Frese, who collected her 20th win for a ninth straight season one game after being ejected for the first time in her career. “We got into some early foul trouble in the first half, which we had to play a lot of different combinations that we’re usually not having to go to, so I had to adjust. I thought the second half we looked more like us. I thought we were very active. Our defense led to our transition and our offense.”
Maryland had built a 16-point lead in the first half but wasn’t able to pull away for good until it scored 17 of first 21 points in the second half. Hawkins and Thomas were responsible for all of that scoring, with Thomas’s jumper from the right wing providing a 50-29 margin with 14 minutes 20 seconds left.
The Terrapins played a chunk of the first half without Thomas, who picked up her second foul less than three minutes into the game. Maryland was able to lean on Hawkins while Thomas was on the bench, and when the ACC player of the year came back onto the court with 10:51 to go until halftime, the Terrapins went on a 16-4 run to forge what appeared a comfortable lead.
But Clemson countered with a 9-1 surge to close the first half and draw within 33-25. Maryland scored the first six points in the second half to stretch the lead to 14 when Thomas collected a pass from Hawkins and sank a layup, and the margin grew to 44-27 following 1 of 2 foul shots from Thomas.
A basket from Clemson sophomore guard Nikki Dixon cut the lead to 44-29, but Hawkins converted a layup off a pass from Howard (seven points, four assists), and Thomas followed with a layup and then another field goal to all but ensure the Tigers’ fourth consecutive loss and sixth in seven games.
Dixon scored a game-high 13 points for Clemson (6-19, 2-11), which did not have a starter shoot better than 38 percent. The Tigers shot just 23 percent in the second half and missed 8 of 13 free throws in that span.
“We kind of came out slow, not prepared to play them,” said Thomas, who made 7 of 12 field goals and had three steals and two assists but committed six of Maryland’s 17 turnovers. “They can play, so we had to wake up quickly.”