CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Katie Rutan played her best game in the Atlantic Coast Conference and feels more comfortable than ever on No. 10 Maryland’s multitalented team. The best news for Rutan, though? She might be losing her protective face mask she’s worn for almost a month.
Rutan scored 16 points off four 3-pointers as the Terps won their 12th straight game over Clemson, 80-40 on Sunday. Rutan, a Xavier transfer who sat out last season, is growing into the reliable outside shooter who prevents defenses from collapsing on Maryland’s seemingly endless roster of tall, talented post players.
“Yeah, it’s just a process and it takes a little bit of time to get used to stuff,” Rutan said. “The way I’m feeling now is really good.”
And that clear, plastic hockey-style mask she’s worn to protect her nose, which she broke on Jan. 3?
“It’s good. We’re at four weeks today, so I might be getting out” of it soon, she said with a wide smile.
Not that it’s affected her aim much. Rutan’s gone 13 of 22 from the floor the past three games, all in starting roles. She broke things open for Maryland (17-3, 8-1 ACC) against the Tigers (5-14, 1-7) with three straight 3-pointers in the opening half to turn a 19-12 lead into a 28-14 runaway.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese says Rutan has been ready to play. “She allows us to have a real inside-outside game,” the coach said. “We know how talented we are with our bigs, but to really stretch the defense like that is critical.”
The Terps did plenty of damage with their inside game, too. Coming off a stellar, 85-59 win over No. 11 North Carolina this past Thursday night, Maryland picked right up against the Tigers.
Tianna Hawkins, the ACC’s leading scorer, had 17 points and 10 rebounds, her 11th game this year with double-figure points and boards. Alicia DeVaughn made 6 of 7 shots for 14 points. Alyssa Thomas, second to Hawkins in league scoring and tied with her for the rebounding lead, posted her 12th double-double this season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Even 6’4″ freshman Malina Howard got into the act with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting. In all, the Terps finished with a season’s best showing from the field, hitting 33 of 56 shots (58.9 percent).
Hawkins said the team talked about not letting up at Clemson after the North Carolina win. “It takes one game at a time for us to get where we want to go,” she said.
The Terps won their seventh straight since their lone league loss to North Carolina back on Jan. 3. Maryland dominated the rematch with the Tar Heels and kept the offensive show going at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Nikki Dixon had 17 points to lead Clemson, which has lost seven of eight.
Maryland outrebounded Clemson 44-23 and held the Lady Tigers to 25 percent shooting (14 of 56) for the game.
Lady Tigers coach Itoro Coleman said her team started the game flat and unlike a 60-46 loss to fourth-ranked Duke were not able to tighten things up and get themselves back in contention.
“We had a chance to respond early and we just didn’t,” she said. “We got deeper and deeper and deeper in the hole and we could not dig ourselves out of it.”
The Terps led 44-18 at the half and grew the lead to 45 points late in the second period.
Maryland came out fast, making six of its first seven shots for a 13-2 lead that only increased at Littlejohn Coliseum. Rutan was the big reason why, breaking things wide open with three consecutive 3-pointers. Howard’s bucket gave Maryland a 36-16 lead and Chloe Pavlech followed with a 3-pointer. And the Terps accomplished the large lead without Thomas, held to one field goal the first 20 minutes.
The Lady Tigers had hung tough with fourth-ranked Duke for about 30 minutes before falling 60-46 last Thursday night. This time, they didn’t have the height or stamina to stay with Maryland. Clemson went more than 10 minutes without a field goal as the Terps went on a 22-4 run to the finish of the half.
The Lady Tigers made only 7 of 27 shots the opening half and were outrebounded 25-9. Maryland started three players up front in Hawkins, Thomas and DeVaughn who are 6-2 or taller — more than Clemson had available for the game.
The game was the second of a doubleheader after Clemson’s men beat Virginia Tech 77-70 and the school hoped for a solid crowd for the women’s game. But just a fraction of the 7,950 who attended the first game stayed for the nightcap.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)