- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - The Maryland women’s basketball team strives to play top-notch defense from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Against Northwestern, a half’s worth of in-your-face defending was good enough.

The third-ranked Terrapins opened the game by forcing three straight turnovers, limited the Wildcats to 22 points over the first 20 minutes and cruised to a 95-65 victory Saturday.

“I thought we got better today, especially on the defensive end,” coach Brenda Frese said. “That’s something we spend a lot of time talking about. It’s an area where we really want to improve.”

The Terrapins (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) couldn’t have been much sharper while building a 23-point halftime lead. Maryland limited Northwestern to 8-for-30 shooting and held Nia Coffey, one of the most prolific scorers in the conference, without a field goal.

Northwestern scored 25 points in the third quarter and Coffey finished with 22 points, but it hardly mattered because the game was all but decided in the first half.

“It shows you our potential when we’re locked in and then what happens when we take a pause and relax,” Frese said. “When we lock in we can be pretty good, and when we lock out we can be pretty bad.”

Brionna Jones had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Terrapins, who never trailed in their third straight lopsided victory since an 87-81 loss to top-ranked UConn.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 18 points and freshman Destiny Slocum added 16. Maryland and No. 11 Ohio State are the only undefeated teams in Big Ten play.

Christen Inman scored 17 for the Wildcats (13-4, 2-2), who came into the game averaging 73.8 points and were coming off an 87-point performance in a loss to Ohio State.

“It’s just disappointing how we played in the first half,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I think we’re a much better team than we showed.”

With the 6-foot-3 Jones leading the way, the Terrapins finished with a 47-30 rebounding advantage. It was Jones’ sixth straight double-double and 10th this season.

When the Wildcats sagged in on Jones, she was delighted to pass the ball out to any one of Maryland’s many talent guards. Five Terps scored in double figures, and Maryland buried 10 shots from beyond the arc.

“Maryland just has so many weapons,” McKeown noted.

It was 23-12 early in the second quarter before Slocum and Kristen Confroy each made a pair of 3-pointers during an 18-4 run that made it 41-16.

Maryland eased up on the defense end after halftime.

“The first 20 minutes were good,” junior Ieshia Small said, “but playing defense for 40 minutes, that’s the goal.”

COFFEY CONTAINER

The stat sheet shows Coffey going 6 for 11 from the floor and 10 of 14 from the line, but the truth is, she wasn’t a factor until the Wildcats were out of it.

The senior forward fouled out with 8:15 to go.

“Fortunately for us, we were able to get her in foul trouble and get her out of the game,” Frese said. “She’s a real difficult matchup.”

CAN’T BEAT THIS

The Wildcats are 0-6 against Maryland, including two defeats in tournament play. The closest game was decided by nine points.

BIG PICTURE

Northwestern: The Wildcats won’t crack the top tier of the conference until they can consistently win on the road. Northwestern is 10-1 at home and 3-3 in away games.

Maryland: The Terrapins looked every bit like the third-ranked team in the country, easily dispatching one of the better squads in the Big Ten. Maryland was particularly impressive on defense, forcing 18 turnovers and limiting Northwestern to 41 percent shooting.

UP NEXT

Northwestern tries again for its first conference road win of the season at Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Maryland hosts Penn State on Wednesday night.

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