After earning her first-ever start with the Maryland women's basketball team in its loss to Michigan State on Thursday, guard Eleanna Christinaki said she didn't care if she started or came off the bench. All she cared about was winning, which the Terps failed to do against the Spartans.
Relegated to the bench against Indiana on Tuesday, Christinaki responded with clutch fourth-quarter play to help the No. 14 Terps avoid a second consecutive loss. They held off the Hoosiers, winning, 74-70.
Christinaki finished with nine points, all coming in the final period.
"She wanted the ball in crunch time," coach Brenda Frese said. "She was fearless, she was confident. That's what she's capable of doing."
Early foul trouble could have doomed the Terps (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten), who started forward Brianna Fraser alongside forward Stephanie Jones for the first time this season. Both players were relegated to the bench for the majority of the second quarter.
The Hoosiers (8-12, 1-6 Big Ten) outscored the Terps by five in the second frame and bested the hosts on the boards. Forward Aja Ellison, Maryland's only other big who is usually confined to late-game cameos, was called upon to alleviate the troubles down low.
The Terps needed a jolt of energy, which freshman point guard Channise Lewis provided with back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 45 seconds of the half. Her second, which swished through the net as the buzzer sounded, tied the contest.
"When those two shots went in, they brought the game to a tie, both times," Lewis said. "I think they just brought out the fire in the second half."
After Lewis stepped up before the break, Fraser, earning her first career start, made up for missed time with Maryland's first four points of the second half. Another Lewis 3-pointer made it appear the Terps would run away with the contest.
Instead, Indiana, which lost five of its previous six games entering the game, held tight until back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Hoosiers a four-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
The teams went back-and-forth in the last quarter, but a Christinaki jumper with less than two minutes left gave Maryland a one-point lead before guard Kaila Charles extended it to three with one of her own.
Christinaki's final point of her big fourth quarter came from the free throw line, giving Maryland a four-point advantage with 10 seconds to go, effectively putting the game beyond Indiana's reach.
"You just saw her will to win, to want to make big plays," Frese said.
Meanwhile, Charles came back from a two-point first-half performance with 14 in the second. Her breakout was a response to Frese challenging her to step up in the locker room. The coach told her leading scorer to stop being passive and do more, Charles said.
By Frese's estimate, Charles answered the call.
"I can't say enough about all of them, but Kaila, [with] what we're asking her to do, it's a lot" Frese said. "She takes it on her shoulders and wants to do it."
Lewis tied her career-high with 12 points, while three other Terps managed double figures. Guard Kristen Confroy scored 15 and Jones managed 13 to go along with Charles' 16.
Between Christinaki and Charles stepping up in the final stages and the Maryland defense forcing Indiana to miss nine of its last 11 field goals and its final six overall, Confroy attributed the victory to the team maintaining its composure down the stretch.
"We learned that we can keep a level head and keep moving forward," Confroy said. "I didn't even know what the score was most of the time, to be honest with you. Just continuing to stay locked in to what we're doing in that moment, knowing that if we put our head on and work, we're going to get the outcome that we want."