Updated at: 12/06/2012 8:35 PM
By DAVID GINSBURG
(AP) COLLEGE PARK, Md. - If ninth-ranked Maryland is to successfully defend its Atlantic Coast Conference title, the injury-depleted Terrapins will have to do so with only eight players.
Fortunately, two of them are Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins.
Hawkins had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Thomas contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Maryland defeated Virginia 79-55 on Thursday night.
Coming off a 15-point loss to No. 2 Connecticut, the Terrapins (5-2, 1-0) led by 16 at halftime and quickly expanded the margin to 25 points before coasting to the finish. Maryland limited the Cavaliers to 12 baskets and finished with a 50-39 rebounding advantage.
With three players sidelined for the season with torn ACLs, Maryland will depend heavily on Thomas, the 2011-12 ACC player of the year, and Hawkins, a sure-shooting 6-foot-3 senior.
Such was the case against the Cavaliers.
"It’s what we have to have in order to be successful," coach Brenda Frese said. "When they just play like they did tonight, give great effort and compete possession by possession, great things are going to happen for us. This team feeds off their energy. They set the tone with everything that they do, and it’s fun to watch."
Thomas went 5 for 11 from the floor, made 10 of 11 free throws and had five assists. She scored only six points against UConn on 2-for-12 shooting.
"Tonight was just more about focusing on Maryland," Thomas said.
The Terrapins have won 13 of the last 16 games between the teams, including all three meetings last season. It was Maryland’s most lopsided win in the series since a 27-point blowout in January 2007.
"A lot of credit goes to Maryland. I think they’re just a great team," Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said. "They dominated the entire game. We’ve got a lot of work to do, obviously."
Ataira Franklin led Virginia (5-3, 0-1) with 15 points. The Cavaliers went 29 for 37 at the foul line but shot only 25 percent from the floor.
"We had balls ripped out of our hands. There was no toughness to us tonight, which is just disappointing," Boyle said. "We’re going to be challenged, because we really have to figure out our identity and who we want to be this year."
With Thomas leading the way, Maryland opened the second half with a 16-4 run to go up 51-23. Thomas fueled the surge with a three-point play, a layup and a jumper.
"Alyssa is a great player," Boyle said. "Maryland’s struggling with some injuries right so they’re trying to figure themselves out, but great players step up and she’s one of them. She did what she needed to do tonight to get her team a win."
Virginia answered with a 16-2 burst to close to 53-39, but the cold-shooting Cavaliers were unable to sustain the comeback bid even though the short-handed Terrapins had three players saddled with four fouls over the final eight minutes. Because of injuries, Maryland’s current roster consists of eight players.
The Terrapins built a 29-15 rebounding advantage and restricted the Cavaliers to 5-for-26 shooting in taking a 35-19 halftime lead.
Virginia opened the game by going 1 for 14 from the floor, its only field goal in the opening 12 minutes a baseline jumper by Franklin at the 16:13 mark.
Maryland took the game’s first nine shots from the field, including four on its first possession, and built a 22-10 lead before Franklin scored in the lane. At that point, the Cavaliers had two baskets and eight points at the free throw line.
After Franklin’s basket, Thomas made two free throws and Malina Howard followed with a layup to spark an 11-2 run that put the Terrapins up 33-14.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)