COLLEGE PARK – With seconds ticking away in the third quarter, Blair Watson was in the right place at the right time.
Guard Channise Lewis just hit the ground, needing to find a teammate to pass the ball to; She found Brianna Fraser close to midcourt, but she was unable to get a shot off with her back towards the basket.
Standing right next to her was Watson, prepared to launch the over 25-foot shot before time expired.
With less than two seconds left, the junior received the pass and threw up a shot that flew directly inside the hoop as the buzzer sounded to end the period. Her teammates could not help but smother her with adulation for the successful shot.
“With teammates like Bri (Fraser) and (Stephanie Jones), I was kind of ready for it,” Watson said. “They are always looking for me so (its) about always being ready.”
“When Blair plays like she did tonight, you see the dominance; You see the separation that helps put our team into,” Maryland Head Coach Brenda Frese said.
It was a complete performance that Frese waited to see from her No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball team. The offense connected more than 42 percent of their field goal attempts while they forced 19 turnovers. The Lady Terrapins continued their dominance, extending their winning streak to eight games after their 89-63 victory over Nebraska on Feb. 14.
Five Terrapins would finish the scoring in double-figures with Charles scoring a game-high 22 points. The home victory was the culmination of a successful run of games for Maryland, who took back the top spot in the competitive Big Ten Conference. The attitude in the locker room was jovial leading to the team’s success heading to the final stretch of the regular season.
“Everyone is hyped; everyone is having a good time,” Watson said. “Everything has been fun about our game, and we could not be happier.”
Maryland (23-2) started off with a flurry of shots, going on a 15-4 run in the opening minutes of the contest.
Watson, who was averaging 8.1 points a game this season, scored eight of the team’s 22 first-quarter points.
Despite the early success, Nebraska (11-14) began to chip away their lead with guard Nicea Eliely hitting two 3-pointers and scoring 12 of her team-high 18 points in the first half. The Cornhuskers were only down seven heading into the halftime break.
As the second half began, Maryland buckled down defensively with a press that limited the passing lanes and contained forward Ashtyn Veerbeek from being a factor down in the paint. The freshman finished with only two points in the game.
“It’s more than just us (post players) but the pressure from our guards, so it’s really a team effort,” Forward Stephanie Jones said on limiting Nebraska to 24 points in the paint. “Because they cannot get the ball inside from a guard position, it is going to be hard all around and make it tough for her too.”
With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Charles backed down two Nebraska defenders two times and was fouled while before the off-the-glass layup.
Her 3-point play started an offensive explosion by Maryland, as they ended the quarter going on a 16-0 run.
The drive included two 3-pointers by freshman Taylor Mikesell and Watson’s near half-court 3-point rocket. Maryland continued the dominating play to start the final quarter, with Lewis and Charles connecting baskets to extend the streak to 20 unanswered points, bringing the lead to its highest point at 28 points.
Between the two quarters in Maryland’s 20-0 run, Nebraska went over five minutes without scoring and did not score its first basket until 8:19 remained in the contest.
Charles scored seven points in the final period to lead Maryland to its 11th consecutive victory over the Cornhuskers. In their last three games, the Terps have won by a combined 57-point margin.
“At that point, it just felt like everything was not quite going our way, and it is kind of hard to get that truck stopped,” Nebraska Head Coach Amy Williams said. “We have a lot of respect for this program, and I think Maryland’s approach has a lot to do with that, but I think that was just a critical juncture in the game.”
With the Big Ten Conference Tournament less than a month away, Frese has enjoyed that her team has been turning out complete performances and allowing the depth in the group to grow, a luxury Maryland did not have to start to the season. The growth will be key as Maryland inches closer to both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments in March.
“We are peaking at the right time,” Frese said. “I think we understand and value how important every game is… the timing is right for us collectively as a team defense that we are going to play together going into that environment (vs. No. 14 Iowa on Feb. 17).”
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