During the three weeks since their last loss, the members of the 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team rolled through five opponents with an eye toward Thursday night’s rematch against the heated ACC rival that beat them.
The Terrapins made certain this time the outcome would be dramatically different, opening a double-digit lead over No. 11 North Carolina in the first half and turning the proceedings to a runaway thereafter in an 85-59 victory at Comcast Center.
Senior forward Tianna Hawkins’s game-high 25 points led four Maryland players in double figures, and the ACC’s leading scorer added eight rebounds in the Terrapins’ 12th win in 13 games.
Junior forward Alyssa Thomas finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists after coming back from a brief scare when she fell hard in the first half and had to be examined briefly in the locker room, and freshman guard Chloe Pavlech chipped in 18 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
“We went down to North Carolina and gave them a game we should have won,” said Hawkins, referring to the 60-57 loss Jan. 3 at Carmichael Arena. “Today was all about revenge, getting back what we deserve. I think as a team we came back and fought the whole game.”
Ahead by 12 at halftime and by 11 with 17 minutes 25 seconds left in regulation, Maryland pulled away courtesy of a 14-4 flurry in which Thomas scored seven points and junior guard Kate Rutan (10 points, six rebounds, six assists) sank a three-pointer. Hawkins also contributed two offensive rebound putbacks for baskets, with her second providing a 55-34 lead at 12:48 that all but assured redemption.
Maryland (16-3, 7-1 ACC) shot 58 percent and owned the advantage in points in the paint, 40-28, and points off turnovers, 21-15, and rebounding, 40-31. The Terrapins overcame 21 turnovers in part by making 18 of 25 free throws and limiting North Carolina to 36 percent shooting, including 1 for 19 from three-point range.
Krista Gross and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt each scored a team-high 15 points for the Tar Heels (18-2, 6-1), who had an 11-game winning streak end and dropped to third place in the conference behind Duke and Maryland. Ruffin-Pratt missed 11 of 14 shots and spent a chunk of the second half on the bench when she picked up her fourth personal foul with 15:51 to play.
“We played our game today,” Thomas said. “We didn’t let them really frustrate us. We were the more physical team out there today, and they really had no answer for us.”
Thomas was involved in a scary moment when she hit the court hard trying to control a loose ball with 5:14 to go. The reigning ACC player of the year had leaped near mid-court, and she was unable to land cleanly with the Tar Heels’ Brittany Rountree crouching underneath her. Thomas instead fell on her side and clearly was in pain as trainers attended to her.
Thomas rose to her feet on her own and exited to the locker room, and Maryland expanded the lead in her absence to 29-22 on a free throw and layup by Rutan, who moved into the starting lineup Sunday in a 66-57 victory over Georgia Tech because of a knee injury to freshman Tierney Pfirman that left the Terrapins with seven players.
Thomas came back into the game with 2:28 to go in the first half, and Maryland continued to apply pressure via back-to-back-Hawkins jumpers. North Carolina Coach Sylvia Hatchell promptly called timeout, but the Terrapins closed with four of the final five points for a 37-25 advantage.
“I think obviously Carolina brings the best out in us,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I think it speaks volumes of the pride that we have in the locker room. To be more prepared and for our team to come out and execute in the dominating fashion that they did was pretty special.”