The ninth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team leaned on Tianna Hawkins on the way to an early lead against Virginia, then turned its ACC opener into a runaway thanks to a burst by Alyssa Thomas immediately after the break for a 79-55 victory on Thursday night at Comcast Center.
Thomas finished with 20 points, including 10 for 11 from the foul line, to match a game high and added 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals before fouling out with 1 minute 47 seconds to play. Hawkins, meantime, also scored 20 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds for the short-handed Terrapins, who played their second game without their injured starting back court.
With eight players on the active roster, Maryland didn’t run into foul trouble on Monday night in a 63-48 loss to No. 2 Connecticut, but circumstances changed drastically in the second half against the Cavaliers. Late in the game, Maryland had four players on the floor with three fouls, including Thomas and Hawkins, who fouled out with 2:14 to play.
By that time, though, the Terrapins (5-2) were well on their way to their most lopsided victory over Virginia since a 95-68 win on Jan. 19, 2007, thanks to an 18-4 run in the first half followed by a 9-0 burst to begin the second.
“I thought we did a really nice job coming in, quick turnaround obviously after the Connecticut game, and I thought we really responded,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “We came out both halves really aggressive and ready to play and obviously battled some adversity tonight in terms of foul trouble and them going to the free throw line.”
Virginia (5-3) shot 39 free throws and Maryland 35 in a game in which the teams combined for 52 personal fouls. The Cavaliers had one player, Telia McCall, foul out, and the Terrapins had three; in addition to Thomas and Hawkins, junior center Alicia DeVaughn (eight points, 10 rebounds) picked up her fifth with 5:21 to play.
The Terrapins were able to overcome a dearth of depth thanks to a rebounding margin of 50-29 that contributed to a 36-16 advantage in points in the paint. Maryland also limited Virginia to 25 percent shooting, including 19 percent in the first half, and won decisively in fast break points, 14-0, despite limited resources.
“I think tonight was just more about focusing on Maryland and just coming out and doing what we did with our defense,” Thomas said. “Just getting steals that led to offense.”
Maryland used that blueprint during its first push that came on the heels of Hawkins scoring four straight baskets for a 10-5 lead, and the senior center ended Maryland’s first-half scoring with a pair of foul shots that provided a 35-18 cushion.
Hawkins scored on a rebound for the first points after intermission, and Thomas took over from there, having a hand in the next nine points in a row that swelled the margin to 46-21. Thomas converted a three-point play, assisted on a layup by freshman forward Tierny Pfirman (17 points), stole the ball and scored a layup and finished the sequence with a jumper.
Virginia got two free throws from junior guard Ataira Franklin (Riverdale Baptist School), but Pfirman made a three-pointer before Hawkins’s jumper gave Maryland its largest lead of the game, 51-23. The closest the Cavaliers got after that was 53-39 with 12:09 left in regulation.
“You can tell your team everything, that you’re not going to outjump them, that they’re physical,” Virginia Coach Joanne Boyle said. “They’re plus-20 on the boards on people and don’t try to outjump them. Put a body on them, and we talked about it, and we ran drills against it. All of a sudden we go out there and do exactly [that], and we just stayed in that funk. We’ve got to figure ourselves out.”