No. 8 Maryland outlasts Drexel 69-63
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - If the Terrapins began Monday night with one eye on their holiday getaway, they ended it happy to be making the trip in one piece.
Alyssa Thomas scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds - everyone of them needed - and No. 8 Maryland outlasted resilient Drexel 69-63 ahead of their weekend trip to Puerto Rico.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 10 of her 12 points for Maryland after halftime to help the Terrapins (5-1) survive an exceptional second-half effort from the Dragons (2-3).
Drexel closed to within three late after trailing by as many as 16 in the first half.
''I'm proud of our team in terms of how we finished,'' said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. ''To be tested like this early, you get to see a lot about your team. ... But I thought Drexel was terrific tonight.''
Brene Moseley added five of her eight points in the final two minutes to help the Terps assure themselves of a three-game win streak heading into games against Texas Southern and Ohio in the San Juan Shootout.
Thomas will enter that tournament having posted a double-double in five consecutive contests, including Monday's game where her presence opened the perimeter for some key late baskets.
''I just think it's how the game went,'' said Thomas. ''I tried to get offensive rebounds, and my teammates found me.''
Alexis Smith scored 19 points and Sarah Curran added 16 points for Drexel, both career highs for the pair of freshmen.
They may be asked to help fill a void this season left by departing seniors and 1,000-point scorers Hollie Mershon and Taylor Wootton.
''That's the reason why we're putting both of them in the position to be out there so early,'' said Drexel coach Denise Dillon of the duo. ''In the amount of minutes that they'll see leading up to conference play, they can not play like freshmen anymore. We're relying on them.''
The Dragons hit seven of 12 3-pointers in the second half to claw back into the game, but fell to consecutive losses for the first time in their first game against a ranked opponent this year.
Curran scored Drexel's first 11 points, but the Dragons still found themselves down by 16 before Smith capped a 5-0 spurt to make it 34-23 with a bank-shot 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Dragons then cut the deficit seven three times early in the second half, closed to within four for a second time when Meghan Creighton's 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 58-54, and were within 60-57 after Abby Redick hit a pair of free throws.
''The rim got a lot bigger,'' said Frese, who added that Maryland's strategy of going to a full-court press backfired. ''Those late break downs we had off our press really gave them momentum and confidence to be able to get confident with what they were doing.''
Thomas answered with a leaning jumper off the glass, and after Smith's running layup cut it to 62-59, Moseley hit an outside jumper. Thomas and Mosely each sank a pair of free throws--Thomas after grabbing a crucial offensive rebound--to stretch it back to 68-59 with just more than a minute remaining.
Drexel made one final push, with Curran hitting a layup off an inbounds play and Carrie Alexander adding a basket off a late steal to cut it to 68-63 with just seconds to play.
But Moseley hit another foul shot late, and Drexel ran out of time to become the second team to beat the Terps at home after top-ranked Connecticut did so on Nov. 15.
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