The 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team never gave Clemson a chance Sunday afternoon, leaning on senior forward Alyssa Thomas, considerable bench contributions and multiple double-digit runs to pull away for a 95-43 victory in front of 6,471 at Comcast Center.
Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists without a turnover. Her strong performance came at a good time: Maryland is facing a demanding stretch that will go a long way toward determining seeding in the ACC tournament.
“You want to build confidence like we’ve been able to do,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I think we’re getting a tremendous feel for one another and making easy plays for each other. Taking those elements now going back on the road where it’s a lot more difficult will be key.”
The Terrapins play four of their next five on the road, including a Feb. 17 date against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. And Sunday’s runaway afforded Frese the opportunity to rest front-line players in preparation for the final portion of the regular season.
Thomas, for instance, went to the bench for good with 8 minutes 20 seconds left and Maryland ahead 70-37 courtesy of 10 straight points. Maryland began the game by scoring 12 in a row en route to a 16-2 lead, and a 10-0 surge several minutes later made it 33-12 with 5:37 to go until intermission.
Thomas “wasn’t in [full] beast mode today, just mini beast mode, which I appreciate,” Clemson Coach Audra Smith said.
In reaching 90 points for a second straight game, Maryland (19-4, 7-3 ACC) upended its longtime conference rival for a 14th consecutive time in the final regular season meeting between the schools as members of the ACC.
Maryland remained in fourth place in the conference with six games left. The top four teams in the conference receive double byes into the quarterfinals and avoid having to play potentially five games in as many days.
The Terrapins forced 27 turnovers, scored 33 points off them and had a 42-16 advantage in bench scoring. Maryland had 12 of 13 players on its roster score, with three reaching double figures, and had 10 players log double-digit minutes.
“Once the starters get going, then that feeds into us, and we keep it going,” said Terrapins reserve forward Tierney Pfirman, who had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting with three assists, three rebounds and two steals. “We step in for them, and we are supposed to produce like that, so that’s what we did.”
Freshman center Brionna Jones contributed 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks, and classmate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 11 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Junior guard Nikki Dixon led the Tigers (11-14, 3-8) with 13 points but committed a game-high seven turnovers. Graduate guard Chancie Dunn (10 points) was the only other Clemson player to score in double figures.
“Our emphasis lately has been to hit the glass hard,” Jones said. “When we do that, we get second-chance options. When we get defensive rebounds, we can push it in transition like we want to.”
●NORTH CAROLINA STATE 72, VIRGINIA TECH 71: Len’Nique Brown hit the winning shot on a floater with 4.5 seconds left in overtime for the No. 17 Wolfpack (21-3, 8-2 ACC) in Blacksburg, Va.
Brown’s game-winner followed a three-pointer by Hannah Young that gave the Hokies a 71-70 lead with 27 seconds remaining. Virginia Tech (11-12, 1-9) had a chance to win in the waning seconds, but Serafina Maulupe’s heave at the buzzer from nearly halfcourt hit the front of the rim.