However, in the rematch between the two fierce rivals, the Terps reveled in a gratifying reversal of the outcome just over a month prior. In the final minute of the Maryland-Duke matchup on February 17, the Terps rested back on their heels, junior Anjale Barrett playfully dribbled the ball at the top of the key while watching the seconds tick away, and the Terrapin faithful, this time eager for time to expire, roared as No. 16/17 Maryland secured a 69-47 victory over No. 7/7 Duke.
On the heels of two consecutive losses to Miami and Virginia, the Terps (21-5, 7-4 ACC) knew that they needed to enter Thursday's game against the Blue Devils (23-3, 9-2 ACC) with renewed focus, unflappable confidence, and an unquenchable desire to succeed.
And while some might have predicted that the pressure of the rivalry and the somewhat must-win situation would have overwhelmed such a young team, the Terps demonstrated remarkable composure, an asset that lent itself to every aspect of their play.
Although the Terps fell behind early as Duke gained a 7-0 lead in the first 2:10 and the Terps did not gain a lead of their own until 5:34 remained in the first half, they persisted unfazed, and Maryland head coach Brenda Frese reports that the team was never worried.
I think that was the biggest difference, Frese said of the team's improvement since last facing Duke. Maybe before we might've panicked a little bit, [but now] just keeping our poise and understanding that we can make other plays within the game.
In the final 7:53 of the first half, the Terps went on a 16-3 run, effectively finding each other in transition for fast break opportunities, demonstrating increased patience with their offensive sets, moving the ball well, and remaining unflustered when the Blue Devils attempted to trap or double-team.
Junior Kim Rodgers grabbed a steal and hit a fast break layup to take the lead for the Terps, 17-16, and junior Lynetta Kizer hit a second-chance layup for further the momentum, contributing to a 27-19 advantage at halftime.
Accordingly, the Terps outscored the Blue Devils 9-0 in fast break points for the first half and 9-2 in second-chance points.
However, the Blue Devils would not be silenced altogether, and 4:44 into the second half they staged an 8-2 resurgence, threateningly finished off with two back-to-back fast breaks by freshman Chloe Wells. The run diminished the Terps' lead to 39-38, presenting a direct challenge to the Terps' grace under pressure.
Regardless, the Terps remained calm, and sophomore Tianna Hawkins hit consecutive layups while sophomore Diandra Tchatchouang had a momentum-shifting block followed by a 3-pointer to quickly put the Terps back up, 46-38, and seal a permanent lead.
ACC Preseason Player of the Year Jasmine Thomas, who has averaged 21.5 points in her last two games against Maryland, periodically threatened the Terps' lead but ultimately buckled under pressure from the Terps' defense. Thomas committed 8 turnovers and often forced her shots, totaling just 12 points on 4-12 shooting.
Although Thomas demonstrated her usual intensity, the Terps, most notably sophomore Dara Taylor, were able to misdirect her efforts with tenacious pressure.
I thought [Taylor] was tremendous on Jasmine [Thomas], said Frese. I thought she really made [Thomas'] shots extremely difficult. We did a really nice job knowing where [Thomas] was at [and] understanding how valuable of a player she is for them.
The Terps committed just 13 turnovers, while the Blue Devils, who normally force opponents into an average of 22 turnovers per game, committed 20 of their own.
Such defensive vigilance also resonated with the Terps' post players, as they routinely collapsed on Duke's interior and limited senior Krystal Thomas, who averages 8.8 points per game, to just 2 points. The Terps also outrebounded the Blue Devils 42-31.
Kizer, who led all scorers with 17 points, perhaps best embodied the Terps' composure on the offensive end, negating each of Duke's attempts to limit her production by recognizing their defensive set-up and exploiting it accordingly.
In one instance, when the Blue Devils over-compensated and rushed to guard her high on the block, she executed a spin move to beat them to the basket. And when they pressured her close to the basket on the following possession, she created space with a hook shot.
As a team, the Terps made similarly wise offensive decisions, allowing for the program's largest margin of victory over Duke since 1993.
And for Frese, the win was especially rewarding, as it came on her twin sons' birthday.
We don't lose on my boys' birthday, Frese said, laughing.
The Terps will travel to No. 15/12 Florida State on Sunday and will tip off at 3:00 p.m.