Having a seven-point lead, and holding the nation’s fifth-ranked team to just 10 points midway through the first half, almost sounded too good to be true for the Penn State women’s basketball team.
Maryland ripped off a 23-1 run to take control and cruised to a 77-62 triumph against the Lady Lions.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough notched 21 points for the Terrapins (20-2), who improved to 11-0 in the Big Ten and won their 14th consecutive game. Lexie Brown had 10 of Maryland’s 22 assists.
Lindsey Spann had 18 and Sierra Moore added 15 for the Lady Lions (5-18, 2-10), who remained in the league cellar.
The contest got off to a great start for the Lady Lions.
Six different players scored the first six baskets. Spann and Candice Agee capped a 10-2 run the gave the Lady Lions a 17-10 lead with 10:53 left in the half.
Penn State’s 2-3 zone gave Maryland, the nation’s fifth-best offense, trouble as the Terrapins opened the contest 4 of 13 from the floor.
“I thought it took us a while, obviously, to be able to adjust to Penn State’s size,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean, they’re huge, big, strong, aggressive.”
The Terrapins found their mark at midway point of the half, especially Walker-Kimbrough. The 5-foot-11 sophomore had nine points as Maryland exploded for a 23-1 outburst over the next 7 1/2 minutes. Maryland made 14 of its final 21 shots in the half.
“We’re were just trying to find the openings,” said Walker-Kimbrough, who nailed 10 of 14 attempts from the floor. “They came out great and we had kind of a slow start, but we figured it out.”
“We were really able to speed them up and I thought at that point was kind of when we got going,” said Frese, whose club averages almost 84 points per game. “We showed a lot of unselfish play and I thought we moved the basketball extremely well on the offensive end.”
At the same time, the Lady Lions suffered through a frigid spell, which has become a trademark of their season. This time, they went more than 7 1/2 minutes without a basket and were outscored 31-7 over the final 10 minutes of the half.
Washington said her club didn’t handle Maryland’s zone defense well.
“The made the switch to go from man to zone and it kind of stymied our offense for a little bit,” she said. “Their press got us out of sync a little bit but I thought it was more their switch to zone and there was a stretch where we probably didn’t score a lot of points.”
Penn State actually outscored Maryland by a basket in the second half (38-36), but never threatened the Terrapins’ big lead. Walker-Kimbrough’s jumper with just over 12 minutes left pushed the Maryland lead as high as 57-32.
From there, Penn State never got closer than the final score.
“I’d like to see more consistency from our team,” Washington said. “I’d like to see more consistency on both ends of the floor. We didn’t have the level of consistency that we’ve had these past few games with the attention to detail and execution that we need to have to be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win down the stretch.”
Most of the cheering came from a large contingent of Maryland fans, many in attendance to root for former South Williamsport standout Tierney Pfirman. The junior forward scored nine points.
The Terps also got a great all-around game from Brown, who had eight points, 10 assists and five steals.
“I thought she just did a tremendous job understanding who needed the ball and just attacking and making easy plays,” said Frese of Brown, who was a former high school teammate of Penn State’s Peyton Whitted in Georgia. “I thought defensively she gave us a lot in terms of getting tips to steals and being really aggressive.”
Brionna Jones had 11 rebounds to help the Terrapins finish with a 39-34 edge.
Spann and Moore (four assists) combined for 23 of Penn State’s 38 points in the second half. Tori Waldner led the Lady Lions with eight rebounds.
Penn State returns to action at 2 p.m. Sunday at Purdue (10-12, 3-8)
Notes: No Penn State players were made available after the game. ... The Lady Lions’ Alex Harris missed the game with the flu. Washington hopes to have her back for Sunday. With Dominique Brooks injured, the Lady Lions dress just nine players ... Keke Sevillian sprained her left ankle with a little more than five minutes left and had to be helped off the court. Washington had no update on her condition after the game. ... Penn State dropped to 14-9 all-time against Maryland.