The Washington Post

Terps march past Illini in Big Ten quarterfin­als


minneapoli­s — Maryland guard Shyanne Sellers stood underneath her own basket, looking for an open teammate for the inbounds pass in the second quarter Friday. Seeing none, Sellers made the quick decision to throw the ball off the back of Illinois first-team all-big Ten guard Makira Cook, collect it and put it in.

Sellers grinned while running up court as No. 5 Maryland pulled away from the Illini in a 73-58 quarterfin­al win in the Big Ten tournament at Target Center. The third-seeded Terrapins, who improved to 14-0 against Illinois all-time, will play No. 2 seed Iowa in Saturday’s semifinals.

Maryland (25-5) took control after a tight first quarter, picking up its defense while finding a groove offensivel­y. The Terrapins outscored the Illini 21-7 in the second period and never looked back.

“Our defense held strong for most of the 40 minutes,” Maryland senior guard Abby Meyers said. “But as we play bigger teams down the stretch, we’ve got to figure out ways to get those defensive rebounds and box out, and that’s something we work on every day in practice. . . . I think defense is going to be our priority in wanting to get better down the road.”

The Terps continued to get important contributi­ons off the bench as Bri Mcdaniel (nine points), Lavender Briggs (11) and Brianne Alexander (eight) all hit big shots in the first half and were aggressive on the defensive end.

“Once I came on the floor, I just wanted to bring a spark on defense,” Mcdaniel said. “. . . Once we’re clicking on the bench it’s, like, amazing.”

The Illini (22-9), coming off an 81-55 win over Rutgers on Thursday, found things much tougher against Maryland’s swarming defense. Illinois finished the regular season with its second-most made three-pointers in school history and made nine more against Rutgers in the second round. Against Maryland, the Illini were just 5-for-16 from beyond the arc.

“It was something we stressed, obviously, coming out from the tip, not allowing those threes, especially early,” Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said. “But I thought we were locked in. You saw that on the defensive end, which allowed us, out of our press we were sprinting out of that, not giving up as many easy threes and just using our length. I thought we contested a lot of shots and moved where we were able to get there on the pass.”

The bench production was decisive: Maryland enjoyed a 28-0 edge in points from reserves.

“I actually intentiona­lly kind of wanted to get [the bench] in early just to get those nerves out of the way,” Frese said, “just knowing how aggressive we wanted to be, with [Briggs’s and Alexander’s] experience. And I thought Bri was just fearless tonight. . . . She’s playing with even a greater purpose.”

Diamond Miller finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists and surpassed Tianna Hawkins for No. 14 on the program’s career scoring list. Abby Meyers added 14 and Sellers had a game-high seven assists. All eight Maryland players that played before Frese began to empty her bench scored at least four points.

Cook led Illinois with 19 points, and Genesis Bryant chipped in 17. Adalia Mckenzie added 12.

Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s win:

No. 1 seed?

The last NCAA top 16 review had South Carolina, Indiana, Stanford and Utah receiving No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but a spot may have opened up Thursday night. The Utes, the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, were upset by No. 7 seed Washington State. If one of the No. 2 seeds in the reveal — Maryland, Virginia Tech, Connecticu­t, LSU — can advance to their respective conference tournament championsh­ip games or win the whole thing, they could bump up into a No. 1 seed.

Up next

The Terps will face No. 2 seed Iowa. The two teams split their regular season meetings, with two-time Big Ten player of the year Caitlin Clark pouring in 42 points in a 96-82 win in Iowa in early February. Maryland adjusted in College Park 19 days later and held Clark to just 18 points in a 96-68 victory.

Quarterfin­al record

The evening session Friday had an announced attendance of 8,577, setting a record for the quarterfin­al round of the Big Ten tournament. The previous record of 7,681 came in the evening session of the 2006 tournament.

Bad memories

The win helped erase Maryland’s memory of last season’s conference tournament, which ended with a 62-51 quarterfin­al loss to Indiana. The 2021-22 season was the first time Maryland failed to advance to the tournament championsh­ip game since it joined the Big Ten in 2014.

 ?? DAVID BERDING/GETTY IMAGES ?? Diamond Miller (14 points) and No. 5 Maryland advanced to a semifinal showdown against Iowa.
DAVID BERDING/GETTY IMAGES Diamond Miller (14 points) and No. 5 Maryland advanced to a semifinal showdown against Iowa.

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