If you were wondering how Tianna Hawkins would respond to her dud of a game at Duke Monday, the answer is that she didn’t hesitate to come out shooting.
Hawkins took and made Maryland’s first three field goals and scored their first eight points Thursday night against Clemson. And she wasn’t going for the easy stuff to ease herself back into an offensive rhythm either. All three of those makes from the field were mid-range shots.
Tianna seemed like she couldn’t miss and even went 1 for 1 from beyond the arc, as well as 7 for 7 from the free throw line and 11 for 18 from the field en route to 30 points, her second highest point total on the year. Meanwhile, Alyssa Thomas overcame first half foul trouble to contribute most of her 17 in the second half and help the No. 7/8 Terps (20-4, 11-2 ACC) turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 75-45 blowout victory over the Tigers (6-18, 2-11 ACC) at Comcast Center in College Park.
“It was just another opportunity to get better and it was important for my team with Alyssa getting into early foul trouble,” Hawkins said of her performance Thursday, which followed up her 6-point outing Monday in Durham.
“Coming into the game we knew that since Tianna Hawkins didn’t have a good game against Duke, she would probably be excited to play tonight,” Clemson head coach Itoro Coleman said. “I didn’t think she would be 30 points excited, but that’s just a compliment to her work ethic and the type of player she is.”
Thomas picked up her second foul just two minutes and 14 seconds into the game. She went on to play just 11 minutes in the first half, while Katie Rutan picked up two first half fouls as well and played just eight minutes.
Alyssa is the Terps’ leader in minutes on the season, while Rutan had played at least 34 minutes in every game since Tierney Pfirman went down with a dislocated right kneecap. They have been arguably Maryland’s two most relied upon players when it comes to dealing with fatigue in recent games and to have them play only 19 combined minutes in the first half was obviously not beneficial for the Terps.
Maryland took a 16-point lead on what was Thomas’ first basket of the game with 6:57 remaining in the first. However, the Tigers then closed the opening period on a 13-5 run that left the Terps looking back on a first half that failed to truly wash the bad taste of the Duke game out of their mouths.
“I thought it was a slow start for us,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “Obviously we got into some early foul trouble in the first half. We had to play a lot of different combinations that we usually haven’t been having to go to.”
In the second half, however, the Terps pulled away from the team that is ranked No. 190 in the RPI, thanks in large part to Alyssa Thomas getting it going.
Thomas and Hawkins combined for Maryland’s first 22 points of the second with 11 apiece, an effort that extended the Terps’ lead to 20. Thomas finished with 13 in the period.
“Obviously any time you take Alyssa off the floor, your team’s going to miss her,” Frese said. “And having to kind of pull her in and out in the first half made it difficult. We have to have her presence, we have to have her on the floor doing the things that she does for this team.”
Just like in the first matchup between these two teams, Nikki Dixon was the only player in double figures scoring for Clemson. She had 13, which was her season average coming into the game. The Tigers were just 1 for 11 from downtown, with Kelly Gramlich recording the one make. It was weakness against strength in that department – Clemson is the worst 3-point shooting team in the ACC and Maryland has the best 3-point percentage defense.
The Tigers didn’t have anybody with double digit rebounds, while the Terps had three in Hawkins, Alicia DeVaughn and Malina Howard. It was Howard’s first career double digit rebound performance as the 6-4 freshman center hauled in 10 boards.
Another career high was set by Terp guard Sequoia Austin, who, due her team’s foul trouble, played more minutes than she has ever played in a game at Maryland. Austin walked on to the team as a freshman and with all the injuries this year she has finally been getting playing time in critical moments of games as a junior. Thursday night marked arguably her biggest contributing effort yet, as she played 26 minutes and scored eight points to match a season high.
“She was a bundle of energy,” Frese said of Austin. “It’s great to be able to see that she’s continuing to come in and keeps getting better and better.”
Chloe Pavlech also had to step up because of the foul trouble, as she played all 20 minutes of the first half. Nobody even came close to Pavlech’s game-high eight assists, and the freshman point guard also had just two turnovers to bounce back from her one assist, nine turnover night at Duke.
Coming off the emotion of that Blue Devil game where Frese was ejected for a double technical could have made it difficult for the Terps to focus on an opponent as weak as Clemson. But Hawkins had just about as good of a turnaround as anybody could have expected and Maryland refused to put win No. 20 on hold any longer. And with win No. 12 at Comcast, only two more games stand in the way of the Terps and a perfect regular season home record, including the rematch with Duke slated for Sunday, Feb. 24.
Up next for Clemson is Virginia Tech on Sunday at 1 p.m. On of the Tigers’ two ACC wins came against the Hokies in a low scoring 47-37 affair on Jan. 31 in Blacksburg.
Meanwhile, Maryland will travel to Virginia to face the Cavaliers at 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Terps topped UVA, 79-55, back on Dec. 6 at Comcast.