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Maryland too tall a task for Illinois women’s basketball

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Maryland too tall a task for Illinois women’s basketball

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a layup during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a layup during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a layup during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a layup during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

Maryland women’s basketball wasn’t always at its best Thursday night, but when the No. 3 Terrapins’ offense was flowing, the ball rarely touched the floor.

Maryland used smooth ball movement to separate themselves from Illinois, in spite of  the Terps’ poor shooting display. Freshman and high school All-American point guard Destiny Slocum flirted with a triple double, swinging the ball quickly and finding open shooters.

The Illini had trouble slowing down Slocum and the Terrapins, droping the contest, 94-49.

Maryland opened the scoring with a pair of free throws from Kaila Charles and never let the Illini take the lead from that point forward.

The Terrapins were cold from deep all night, finishing 7-22 on threes, but the team made adjustments to compensate for its poor shooting. Maryland pounded the ball inside, taking advantage of its height and length and scored 44 points in the paint. Despite Illini forward Alex Wittinger protecting the rim, Slocum and the Terrapins moved the ball well enough to negate much of her defensive efforts.

Maryland moved effectively off the ball, and as soon as the Terps caught a pass, they were setting up to swing it again. This often led to scoring possessions when the ball only touched the ground five times.

“We spent a lot of time at halftime talking about how we were not shooting the ball well, so let’s be patient,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I think you saw that we took that message out of the locker room. The first three plays down the floor we were really unselfish and we waited for them to break down, and the basket got a lot bigger for us.”

On a night when the top two individual scorers played for the team that lost by 45, Maryland’s teamwork and ball movement allowed it to run up the score on the Illinois. Only two Maryland players finished in double digits in scoring, but every Terrapin contributed at least five points.

“It’s a championship mentality,” Frese said. “When you care about each other’s success more than your own, great things are gonna happen.”

The Terrapins exposed many flaws in Illinois’ game on both sides of the ball. The Terrapins out-rebounded the Illini by 21 in the first half alone and sent Maryland to the charity strike 35 times during the game.

“We didn’t move very well defensively,” Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. “And when you don’t move well, you end up grabbing or reaching — you don’t get your body in front of them, and we did that.”

On the other side of the ball, the Illini struggled to make shots against a Maryland defense that put the pressure on the Illini. Illinois finished with only three assists in the entire game. Slocum had nine of her own.

“We didn’t play as a team offensively tonight,” Wittinger said. “We were trying to create our own shots, which there is a time to do that, but we definitely as a team need to get everybody scoring and everybody doing their part.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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