Women’s Basketball: Maryland’s defense shuts down Northwestern in rematch

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Lindsey Pulliam follows through on a shot. The junior guard finished with 20 points in a return to her home state.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Reporter

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — When Northwestern and Maryland met in Evanston on New Year’s Eve, the Wildcats shot 50 percent from behind the arc, attempted 38 free throws and scored 81 points in a blowout win over the Terrapins.

When the teams met again in College Park on Sunday, Maryland’s defense was ready. The No. 20 Terrapins (16-4, 7-2 Big Ten) ran the press effectively, clamped down on NU’s outside shooters and forced 16 turnovers as they beat the No. 22 Cats, 70-61.

“Their press was a little bit of a struggle for us this time,” sophomore guard Veronica Burton said. “We weren’t as poised and turned the ball over more than we should have.”

NU (17-3, 7-2) weathered an early Maryland push to outscore the Terrapins 19-10 in the second quarter, taking a three-point lead into halftime. The Cats’ patented Blizzard defense was holding up and until late in the third quarter, NU had withstood every Maryland run.

But the Terrapins used their size advantage to go on a 12-1 spurt — all on layups and free throws — to turn a three-point deficit into an eight-point lead entering the final period. NU turned the ball over three times during that stretch, including a shot clock violation that forced an exasperated coach Joe McKeown to call a timeout.

“They didn’t really do a whole lot different (from the last meeting), but we weren’t real sharp,” McKeown said. “When they can rebound and run, they’re really good. We just couldn’t keep them off the offensive glass in the fourth.”

Maryland outrebounded NU 45-29, including an incredible 18-5 edge on offensive boards. That discrepancy helped the Terrapins to a 22-3 advantage in second-chance points, with 16 of those 22 coming in the second half. Stephanie Jones led the way with eight offensive rebounds and 11 total boards to go along with 14 points.

Junior guard Lindsey Pulliam was the Cats’ best offensive option. Pulliam, playing just 20 minutes from her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, led all scorers with 20 points, but it was an inefficient 20 — she finished just 6-for-18 from the floor and missed some critical shots at the foul line.

“They amped up their pressure, but really it was on us,” Pulliam said. “Props to them for outworking us.”

Pulliam and Burton were forced to carry the load offensively as NU’s bigs were overwhelmed by Maryland’s size. Burton finished with 14 points but was a mere 1-for-6 from deep. With the Cats running a much slower offense than the Terrapins, Maryland was able to settle into its defensive sets and force NU into low-percentage shots with the shot clock winding down.

The Cats did make things interesting in the fourth, with a four-point play by Pulliam helping NU close the gap to two. But the Terrapins went on another big spurt, this time an 11-3 run, to end any thought of a comeback, handing the Cats their first road loss of the year.

“We go into halftime with the lead, and it felt like we had the pace of the game the way we wanted it,” McKeown said. “We had plenty of chances, but you’ve got to give them credit. They made some tough shots.”

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