Though the Maryland women's basketball team amassed 26 first-quarter points at Northwestern on Thursday night, it surrendered 23 points to the Wildcats over that span, seeming to set the stage for a high-scoring affair.
But the game slowed down over the next three quarters, with neither team reaching 20 points in a frame again. When the Terps needed stops, they got them, forcing three turnovers in the final three minutes. And thanks to two late layups and a free throw from forward Brianna Fraser, the Terps clawed their way out of Evanston with a 68-65 victory.
"We found a way to be able to pull it out in the end," coach Brenda Frese said. "It was an intense environment and I thought Northwestern played really, really well."
At first, Maryland seemed like it hadn't missed a beat from its 99-69 win against Ohio State on Monday, sans the defense which kept the Buckeyes, one of the nation's best scoring teams, virtually silent.
The second quarter produced far more subdued offensive performances from both sides, though, with each team shooting less than 30 percent from the field in the opening five minutes. Guard Kaila Charles notched 11 points in the first quarter, but she missed the beginning of the second due to foul trouble.
Once she returned from the bench, the Terps (18-3, 7-1 Big Ten) found a rhythm.
We got into some early foul trouble and had some lapses defensively, but I liked the fact that we were able to finish the game," Frese said.
Trailing by one, guard Ieshia Small drained a deep jump shot with about four minutes remaining in the half to kickstart a 10-0 Maryland run. Northwestern (9-13, 2-6 Big Ten) went scoreless for more than four minutes before guard Lindsey Pulliam made a layup with 24 seconds left in the half.
Charles finished with 17 points after making her first seven shots from the field. Guard Eleanna Christinaki chipped in 15 and Fraser added 13.
But what appeared to be smooth sailing soon turned when the Terps failed to convert a field goal for more than 11 minutes between the third and fourth quarter. Because of that, the Wildcats remained tight to the finish.
Fraser scored seven points in the final five minutes, including a completed and-one with 29 seconds to go, to put the game out of reach.
With Small's shot starting the run and Fraser's finishing at the end propelling the Terps to victory, Frese commended her bench for stepping up in times of need.
"Key moments of energy sparked us from both Ieshia and Bri," Frese said. "Bri was huge down the stretch. We needed every single person and their energy and contributions tonight."