By the final minute of Thursday night’s women’s game at Xfinity Center, Purdue had rendered No. 10 Maryland nearly unrecognizable.
Trailing by four points with 54 seconds to play in a game they led by 10 in the third quarter, the Terrapins unleashed a frenzied flurry of rushed three-point attempts and long, errant jumpers. Their desperation was unfamiliar to those in attendance, fans who are accustomed only to Maryland’s poise and control — especially late in games and especially at home.
This time, Purdue was the steadier team, and the Boilermakers handed the Terps their second conference loss, 75-65, behind a solid zone defense and stellar fourth-quarter shooting.
It’s the first time since the Terrapins (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten) joined the conference that two Big Ten foes have defeated them in a season — they also lost to Michigan State by 14 on Jan. 11 — and the first time since the 2010-11 season that the Terps have lost three games in College Park. They lost to then-No. 4 South Carolina on Nov. 13.
“We’ve been saying this all year, how strong the league is,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “Give all the credit to Purdue. I thought they were sensational tonight. We kept changing our defenses. We didn’t have a response. . . . [They are a] team that will make us better for March as we continue to learn. We’re playing the top half of the league from here on out, and we have to come ready to play for 40 minutes.”
Purdue (17-10, 8-5) overwhelmed Maryland from the start, shooting 61.5 percent from the field and stifling the unusually low-energy Terps in transition as Maryland took time to find its groove on offense.
Guard Kristen Confroy (13 points) finally took charge on that front in the second quarter. The senior — who was honored before tipoff for joining current Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver as one of two Terrapins to make 200 career three-pointers, a milestone she reached Sunday in a win at Rutgers — scored 10 points in the second period and was flawless from beyond the arc. She hit two consecutive three-pointers to set Maryland on a 12-2 run that helped the Terps inch ahead 34-29 at halftime as the defense held Purdue to nine points.
Most teams that allow Maryland an inch before halftime end up sacrificing a mile, but Purdue held steady as the Terps’ offense reverted after intermission.
Maryland was unable to capitalize on the offensive end after fighting for defensive stops. The Terrapins looked uncertain on offense, especially after leading scorer Kaila Charles was subbed out after picking up her fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Stephanie Jones made a layup to give Maryland its first double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, but Maryland committed turnovers in the two possessions that followed and had five overall in the third quarter.
“It was like plugging holes most of the night,” Frese said.
Those openings were all Purdue needed to shoulder its way to a win.
The Boilermakers were as solid as Maryland was shaky. Andreona Keys led five players in double figures with 17 points, and Purdue shot 50.9 percent from the floor.
The Terps also had five players in double figures and were led by Charles, who had 14 points and paced the team with eight rebounds despite playing just 29 minutes because of foul trouble.
Confroy, the hero of the first half, didn’t score in the second.
“For a lot of our season it’s been, I have a big first half, then Kaila has a big second half, or whoever it may be, and I think a lot of it is taking what the defense gives you,” Confroy said. “Obviously I had a hot hand in the first hand and just couldn’t capitalize as much in the second, which normally I don’t have to because really everyone else starts dumping out shots when the floor opens up.”
Neither Charles nor Eleanna Christinaki could find her rhythm Thursday. Christinaki is typically a high-energy spark plug for the team on offense, but against Purdue she either couldn’t make the space to set up good shots or simply missed, finishing 5 for 23 from the field.
Maryland travels to play Minnesota and No. 23 Michigan before returning home for its regular season finale against Nebraska, a Big Ten gantlet Frese hopes prepares her team for the postseason.
“We said this finish was going to tell a lot about us, and I think up to this point, it has,” Frese said. “It’s not going to let up. This is conference play. The thing is, what do you take out of it? I mean, we want to be prepared for March. That’s always been the mission for us. . . . This grind, everybody has had to go through a grind this season. We can give better effort in how we want to play.”