DURHAM, N.C. — First, the seventh-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team lost its coach Monday night when Brenda Frese was assessed a double technical late in the second half and ejected for the first time in her career.
The Terrapins’ unraveling continued from there, and No. 5 Duke turned what had been a competitive affair into a comfortable victory, 71-56, Monday night in front of 6,254 at rowdy Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Maryland (19-4, 10-2 ACC) had its nine-game winning streak end and failed in its bid to tie Duke for first place in the conference in large part because it got atypical performances from its two marquee players.
Junior all-American forward Alyssa Thomas had 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal but missed 15 of 19 shots, including going 1 for 11 in the second half. Senior forward Tianna Hawkins, meantime, missed 8 of 11 shots and finished with six points, her second-lowest total this season, and seven rebounds.
Hawkins entered as the leading scorer in the ACC and second-leading rebounder, and Thomas came in as the conference’s top rebounder and No. 2 scorer.
“I’m disappointed, obviously,” Frese said. “I don’t think the score is indicative in terms of how this team fought and how they played tonight, obviously with the late free throws after the technical and the ejection, but proud in terms of how we battled, hung in there and fought for 40 minutes in a hostile environment and a physical game.”
Duke junior guard Chelsea Gray made four consecutive foul shots after Frese was escorted off the court for protesting to officials Dee Kantner and Denise Brooks during a stoppage in play. Brooks whistled Frese for the second technical that led to the ejection, and the Blue Devils (22-1, 12-0) responded by scoring 10 of the next 12 points to secure their sixth consecutive win and fifth in a row against Maryland at Cameron.
Gray finished with a career-high 28 points that included 13 of 14 from the free throw line and added a game-high four steals with three assists and three rebounds, and junior guard Tricia Liston had 17 points and six rebounds. Liston made all four of her free throw attempts as part of Duke’s 96 percent foul shooting (21 of 22).
The Terrapins attempted just 11 free throws, shot 34 percent from the field and committed 24 turnovers that led to 18 points. They also barely outrebounded their archrival, 41-39, after averaging plus-16.4 in rebounding margin, good for second in the country.
“Just a great, physical game,” Blue Devils Coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “An excellent game to help prepare us for the NCAA tournament with the way those games go.”
Despite using just seven of an available eight players, injury-depleted Maryland managed to keep it close early in the second half thanks to outside shooting, with the Blue Devils conceding nothing close to the basket. Junior guard Katie Rutan (14 points on 5-of-15 shooting) sank a three-pointer that tied it at 33, and Maryland stayed within one possession until a three-pointer by freshman Chloe Pavlech (eight points, season-high nine turnovers) with 10 minutes 51 seconds to play provided the Terrapins their first and only lead, 44-42.
But Gray countered by scoring seven points in a row, and Frese called a timeout with 7:30 left and her team trailing, 49-44. The Terrapins made consecutive field goals soon thereafter to draw within 55-50 before sophomore center Elizabeth Williams (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Gray responded with baskets for Duke.
Then during the next timeout, Frese was sent off, leaving associate head coach Tina Langley in charge.
“We expected it to be a very physical game, and I think we responded really well,” Thomas said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves, and when they threw punches, we just kept going.”