The battle between the ACC's highest scoring offense and stingiest defense was a one-sided affair as No. 8 Maryland out-rebounded, outshot and overpowered Virginia en route to a 73-56 win.
The Cavaliers (18-9, 6-7 ACC) could not handle the Terrapins' length inside and agility on the wings as Maryland (22-4, 9-4 ACC) sliced and muscled its way to a 44-21 halftime lead, scoring 30 of their first 32 points in the paint.
The Terrapins held a 29-12 rebounding advantage in the first half as Virginia had no answer for junior forward Tianna Hawkins, who scored a career-high 26 points on 12-of-13 shooting and pulled down 14 rebounds, notching a double-double before the close of the first half.
"It's our worst game of the year," coach Joanne Boyle said. "I felt that we just laid down there in the first half. Maryland was clicking tonight. There's no doubt about it. They're a great team. But I don't think we showed our best game by any means."
Senior forward Chelsea Shine got on the board first for the Cavaliers' only lead of the night before the Terrapins used two first-half runs to take control of the game. With the Cavaliers trailing 6-4, Hawkins cashed in on four lay-ups during an 18-5 Terrapin run during the next seven minutes to take a 15-point lead. Senior guard Ariana Moorer, who scored a team-high 23 points but missed 13 of her 20 field goal attempts, answered back with a three to bring the deficit to 12 with less than 10 minutes to play in the half.
Maryland closed the half on an 18-6 run as they shot 55 percent from the field in the decisive first half.
The Terrapins' ACC-leading scoring offense, which averages 81.0 points per game, scored eight more points in the first half than Virginia allowed the entire game in their last contest against Clemson. Sophomore forward Alyssa Thomas, the leading scorer in the ACC, scored eight points, and sophomore guard Laurin Mincy added nine in the opening period as they broke down the Virginia zone with penetration.
"Their match-up zone is really difficult so we wanted to be really aggressive, and that was pretty close to as flawless a first half as you can get," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said after picking up her 300th career win.
The Cavaliers showed more life as Moorer went bucket for bucket with Hawkins for a stretch in the second half. Virginia began to cut into the Maryland lead as the No. 5 team in the nation in steals came alive for the highlight of the night.
With six minutes gone in the second half and Virginia trailing by 19, Moorer dove on a loose ball near half-court, passing it to an off-balance junior guard Lexie Gerson. Gerson shoveled it ahead to sophomore forward Jazmin Pitts who converted the lay-up to cap a 6-0 run.
With less than 11 minutes to play and Maryland maintaining a 19-point cushion, Gerson scored four straight points on a nifty runner and tough jumper as the Cavaliers continued to trim the deficit.
Moorer cut the lead to 15 when she stripped the ball inside from Hawkins on a rebound and started the break, feeding Franklin for the lay-up to breathe life into 3,310 fans at John Paul Jones Arena.
Moorer cut the deficit to 11 on a pair of free throws and a steal as she took it coast-to-coast for two to force Frese to call timeout with her team leading 57-46 with 9 minutes 5 seconds to play.
The Cavaliers' comeback bid came up short as it was all Terrapins down the stretch. After the timeout, Hawkins stepped out near the three-point line and drilled a deep two to ignite a 14-2 clinching streak for Maryland.
The Cavaliers will travel to Blacksburg Sunday for their second of two match-ups against Virginia Tech (7-19, 3-10 ACC). Virginia defeated the Hokies in Charlottesville Jan. 12, 52-39, for their 800th win in program history. The Hokies have lost five in a row and 10 of their last 11, their lone win coming in a 75-69 upset of Maryland.
"The mindset doesn't change at all," Moorer said. "We just need to keep staying aggressive. We can't come out flat like we did this game. We'll hold onto it tonight, watch film tomorrow and move on."