Playing its first game in a week, the sixth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team overcame balky shooting in the early stages and got valuable contributions from its bench to pull away from Syracuse, 77-62, on Thursday night in front of 3,777 at Comcast Center.
The Terrapins won their 13th straight game and moved to 3-0 all time against Syracuse, which is in its first season in the ACC after spending 34 years as a founding member of the Big East. Maryland, meanwhile, is playing its final season in the ACC before departing next year for the Big Ten.
Senior forward Alyssa Thomas finished with a game highs of 19 points, 11 rebounds and three steals for her NCAA-leading 14th double-double, and freshman center Brionna Jones scored a career-high 18 points with 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Brene Moseley and freshman forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough each added 10 points.
“I thought we were really, really good defensively in the first half,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “We made a lot of plays for each other, really made it difficult for them to be able to score. Exciting because that’s something we’ve been working extremely hard as a team, to be able to see us really connect on that and coming together from the defensive end.”
The Terrapins (15-1, 3-0 ACC) got 44 points from their reserves, committed a season-low nine turnovers and had 14 steals. They owned a 30-10 advantage in points off turnovers, 21-9 in second-chance points and 44-30 on points in the paint.
Every player who stepped on the floor for Maryland scored at least two points.
Brianna Butler led the Orange (12-5, 1-3) with 14 points but missed 10 of 16 shots and committed five of her team’s 21 turnovers. Alexis Peterson added 12 points and was the only other Syracuse player to reach double digits.
Maryland took the lead for good midway through the first half and then responded when the Orange trimmed a 19-point margin to 48-38 with 14 minutes 41 seconds left in regulation on Rachel Coffey’s three-pointer. From there, Jones converted a three-point play, and after Cornella Fondren’s layup for the Orange, Thomas made a jumper and 1 of 2 foul shots.
Moments later, Maryland went on a 7-0 run to help build a 63-41 lead, its largest of the game. The Orange clawed back again, getting within 69-59 with 4:47 remaining, but Maryland reeled off eight straight points.
“You never know when your number is called, and tonight I was just ready and prepared,” said Moseley, an All-Met from Paint Branch who had seven assists and three steals and shot 4 for 6. “Syracuse, we knew they were going to be pressuring us and that would allow us an opportunity to be able to control the game and control the pace, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”
The Terrapins started the second leg of a season-high three-game conference home stand by missing 10 of 11 shots until Thomas collected an offensive rebound and scored. That basket triggered a stretch during which Maryland made 13 of its next 18 field goal attempts, including Thomas’s jumper to take the lead for good at 14-12 with 12:09 left until intermission.
Thomas’s field goal was part of a 10-0 run in the first half, and Maryland followed a Syracuse basket with another 9-2 burst. Walker-Kimbrough got it going with a three-point play. Moseley swished a jumper, Walker-Kimbrough added a layup, and when sophomore forward Tierney Pfirman made a layup, the Terrapins were ahead 27-16.
“It makes it really hard for teams to guard us and just to scout us when we have so many people getting involved,” Thomas said. “Syracuse really had a tough time on who to key in on.”