DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP)Blair Watson noticed the difference – for the first half of Friday’s Daytona Invitational game, ninth-ranked Maryland and Clemson were playing with a men’s basketball.
But afterwards the Terrapin senior remained adamant that it had no effect in her fourth-quarter three-point barrage that lifted Maryland to a 63-44 victory over the Tigers Friday in the Ocean Center.
Watson hit four-pointers in a 16-0 Terrapin run as Maryland (6-1) pulled away after Clemson (2-5) cut it to nine, 46-37, on Shania Mertins’ lay-up with 9:37 remaining.
She finished with a season-high 19 as Maryland won its fifth straight.
“(The women’s ball) is a lot lighter, said Watson, who was 5-11 from three-point range.” I just found my range.”
Shakira Austin added 17 points and played a key role in Maryland storming out to a 32-8 lead on Kaila Charles’ lay-up with 2:54 remaining in the first half.
“Blair played a complete game and we need her to knock down shots,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “Shakira continues to play at a high level. For us to be successful, we have to play through her.”
Maryland forced 29 turnovers – 18 in the first half, and limited Clemson to 2-15 shooting from three-point range. The Tigers’ 44 points were both their season low and the low for a Maryland opponent.
“Right now, I’m excited about our defense because we hang our hat on it,” Frese said. “We had a lot of energy in the first half.”
Austin connected on six of her first seven shots as the Terrapins led 12-5 after the first quarter.
“Shakira was tremendous on the glass,” said Frese, noting Austin’s eight rebounds. “That 6-5 presence gives us such a presence inside.”
Clemson closed out the first half with a 9-2 run and got it to 34-22 in the third quarter on Kendall Spray’s three-pointer. Maryland once again responded with its defense, holding the Tigers scoreless the next four minutes to push its lead to 41-23 with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter on two Kalia Charles free throws.
Amari Robinson led Clemson with 14 points, while Spray added 11.
MARYLAND: Austin, a sophomore has been on a role for the Terrapins ever since leading a come-from-behind victory over James Madison. She’s scored double-figures each game during this win streak and basically took over the game both in the post and the open court in Maryland’s aggressive defense.
CLEMSON: The Tigers’ non-conference schedule has also included No. 5 South Carolina and Penn State and has Iowa before the ACC opener against Florida State. The Tigers came into this game averaging 22 turnovers.
Maryland will face Belmont on Saturday.
Clemson will meet Alcorn State on Saturday.