Maryland women’s basketball is back in the win column. Despite a slow start for the third straight game, the No. 4-ranked Terrapins pulled away from Ohio State, 75-69, on Saturday to improve to 13-1.
Following their first loss of the season, the Terps turned to Kaila Charles to bring them back to their winning ways. The junior had her best game of the season in the team’s first of 2019, leading the game with 24 points on an efficient 7-of-15 shooting while adding six rebounds. But perhaps Charles’ most important contribution was from the free-throw line, as she hit 10 of her 11 chances from the charity stripe.
Continuing her strong start to the season, Stephanie Jones added 16 points, giving Maryland an invaluable presence inside the paint. She also grabbed seven rebounds, leading the team. Taylor Mikesell was the only other Terrapin to finish in double-figures, scoring 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting while adding a pair of three-pointers.
In an unusual twist, Ohio State actually shot better than Maryland throughout the course of the game. The Buckeyes hit their field goals at a .464 clip, while the Terps hit just 39.7 percent of their chances. The difference in the game came at the charity stripe, as Maryland hit 21 shots to Ohio State’s 10.
After losing to Rutgers on New Year’s Eve, the expectation was that Brenda Frese’s team would get out to a lead early on. That didn’t happen, as Ohio State not only matched Maryland score-for-score, the Buckeyes controlled an early lead. Dorka Juhász proved to be a tough matchup for the Terrapins from the jump, scoring five points in the first five minutes. But as she dominated offensively, Charles was even better for Maryland. The junior scored nine points in the quarter, and after a Sarah Myers buzzer-beating three-pointer, the Terps had a 20-19 lead after a poorly-played period.
But Ohio State kept fighting, and it started the second quarter scoring eight straight points. Down 31-25 with under five minutes to play in the half, though, Charles and Jones began to take over. The junior duo combined to score Maryland’s next 15 points, putting the Terps up 43-36 heading into the break.
After showing glimpses of improved play to end the first half, Maryland regressed and struggled coming out of halftime. In the 10 minutes that ensued, the Terrapins scored just 14 points on just 25.0 percent shooting. Charles and Taylor Mikesell had rough periods in particular, combining for just six points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Ohio State, on the other hand, thrived after head coach Kevin McGuff had a chance to install a plan for the second half. The Buckeyes had 22 points in the quarter, their highest output of the game, and they shot incredibly well from the field (47.1 percent). And combined with stingy defense, Ohio State took a 58-57 lead into the final period of play.
Luckily for the Terps, the fourth quarter saw them get a few breaks. Jones took over in the early going, and Charles was clutch down the stretch. She gave Maryland a 67-66 lead with a free throw at the 3:50 mark, and Mikesell hit her first three of the game shortly after to make it a four-point game. When the final buzzer sounded, Maryland had a six-point advantage on the scoreboard.
Maryland hits the road and visits Nebraska on Tuesday.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s struggles continued. That’s now three straight lackluster performances from the No. 4 team in the nation (that won’t be the case any longer come Monday). While the competition has been a step up, none of these three opponents have been ranked, and Maryland was the clear favorite each time. The Terrapins were lucky to escape with a win Saturday, but should this level of play continue, they likely won’t be able to often going forward.
2. Kaila Charles and Stephanie Jones saved the day. On a day where not much at all went right, it was a pair of juniors who combined to push Maryland ahead. Charles led the game with 22 points, and Jones backed her up with 16 of her own. Not only were they the leading scorers, but they took quality shots all game, combining to shoot 14-of-29 from the floor.
3. Shakira Austin was nonexistent. After such a strong start to the season, Austin has fallen off dramatically in the past three outings. She was particularly ineffective on Saturday, failing to score a single point. That wasn’t for a lack of chances, however; Austin failed to hit any of her six shots from the floor and missed both chances from the charity stripe. She finished with six rebounds in 15 minutes after not playing in the fourth quarter.