COLLEGE PARK – The Big Ten conference is lauded for its level of competitiveness and the caliber of the teams that call the conference home. Which makes it all the more impressive, then, that since joining the Big Ten in 2014, the Maryland women’s basketball team has never lost to the Wisconsin Badgers.
The victories haven’t been close ones, either. All but one game against the Badgers resulted in a blowout Terps victory, and Thursday’s matchup at the Xfinity Center was not any different. Kaila Charles’s second-half hot hand helped establish a 20-point fourth-quarter lead, as the Terps strung together a late 11-2 run that earned Maryland its fourth consecutive double-digit win, 75-57, on Jan. 31.
Thursday’s win vaulted the Terps to a 19-2 overall record and 8-2 in conference play, just one game behind the 9-1 Rutgers. Maryland is now 7-0 all-time against the Badgers, who dropped to 11-11 and are nearly last in the Big Ten in conference games.
Wisconsin came into the game fresh off a big, last-second win against Nebraska on Sunday. The Badgers had trailed the Cornhuskers by 14 points and were in the midst of a six-game losing streak when redshirt senior Kelly Karlis hit the three-point buzzer beater that gave Wisconsin the one-point win.
That extra motivation was not lost on Charles, who knew the Badgers were going to enter the game with an added spring in their step after that come-from-behind victory.
“We knew they were coming off a good win, so they were going to come and probably try to get another one,” said Charles. “We just knew that we had to stick to Maryland basketball – our standard running, rebounding and playing defense. We just made sure we locked in and focused on us.”
In addition to Charles’s 22 points and six rebounds, forward Shakira Austin registered her eighth double-double of the season, and guard Blair Watson contributed 11 points and five rebounds.
In the first half, though, the Badgers had kept the game close, perhaps still propelled by the win against Nebraska. Karlis (10 points) and forward Imani Lewis (14 points, nine rebounds) led the charge and even took the lead in the second quarter before a three-point basket by Maryland junior Sara Vujacic kicked off a 9-0 scoring run. The Badgers wouldn’t lead again for the rest of the game.
All ten Terps who took the court on Jan. 31 scored at least one bucket. This depth is something that Maryland Head Coach Brenda Frese pays special attention to, especially now that the Terps have entered the second half of the season.
“Big picture: we want to be playing three games in three days for the Big Ten tournament,” said Frese. “In order to do that, we have to be able to have this kind of depth. When we have that kind of depth both inside and outside, that’s just going to help us in the big picture of things. Our bench was terrific tonight; I love that when they got their opportunity; they took full advantage of it.”
In fact, the final three treys that landed in Maryland’s favor came courtesy of players who came off the bench. The big shots served as the icing on the cake for the Terps, capping off a fourth quarter that opened with an unanswered scoring run that was reminiscent of last year’s win against Wisconsin.
Next up, Maryland must travel to face Illinois (9-12) on Feb. 4 to a conference foe that has only managed one Big Ten victory all season and sits at the very bottom of the standings.