No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball kicked off the 2021-22 season with an emphatic home win against Big South heavyweight Longwood, winning 97-67 on Tuesday. Not only were the Terps able to open the season at the Xfinity Center in front of friends and family, but they also played the first game of the season with an 11 a.m. start time.
“Obviously kind of cool to be the first game in the college season to tip-off anywhere in the country,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “You always love this game to have the kids here, you know, definitely did have the energy for an 11 a.m.”
The Lancers were tied at the end of the first quarter but the home team logged 55 points to Longwood’s 26 in the second and third quarters combined to put the game out of reach.
“Through the quarters, I thought we got better,” Frese said. “I thought we responded at halftime and our second and third quarters. We were able to do some great things.”
Here are some takeaways from Tuesday’s outing.
Maryland showcased mental fortitude that will be vital to a future title run
After a shocking exit to Texas in the Sweet 16 last year, Maryland will be focused on fortifying a championship mindset. The first five games of the season, four of which are at home, provide Frese and her squad an opportunity to work out the kinks on both ends of the floor before what could be a Final Four preview against Baylor on Nov. 21.
A 30-point Maryland victory belies how close the opening frame was. After the first 10 minutes, Longwood kept up with Maryland had had six different Lancers on the scoresheet.
“I don’t like when people come in our building and punch first at us,” Frese said. “But I like our response to it. You know, I thought we had to work and be able to earn it against a really well-coached team.”
Transitioning into the second and third quarters, the team emphasized defense, holding Longwood to 13 points in the middle two periods.
“I just think we tried to speed them up,” junior forward Mimi Collins said. “We were really sloppy in the beginning. When we use our length and just got into the gaps, we sped them up and we got the stops that we needed.”
“I definitely liked the response to the second and third quarters, and now we’re looking to put a complete game together,” Frese said. “You can’t have halves like that against top-ranked teams.”
The Terps are adapting to life sans Diamond Miller
On Tuesday, Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller were named to the Wooden Award Top 50, “Wade Watch” and Naismith Trophy watch lists for the national player of the year honors.
Last season, Owusu averaged 17.9 points and Miller put up 17.3 as the pair helped the Terps lead the country in scoring. Both players also earned All-Big Ten First Team honors.
The two form the spine of the structurally sound skeleton that is Maryland basketball. The only problem? Miller is out with a knee issue.
“They all have to step up,” Frese said about filling the void left by Miller’s injury. “When you lose a dynamic scorer and your best defender, everyone has to do a little bit more.”
Maryland’s head coach was effusive in her praise of the other half of her star-studded backcourt.
“I thought Ashley was really aggressive on both ends of the floor, which is where we need her to be and set the tone,” Frese said. “She was confident to want to run the team.”
“I’m just not letting them take me off the game,” Owusu said. “I have been working hard just to get the ball and get open so we can start our offense.”
In Miller’s absence, two players stepped up — sophomore forward Angel Reese and freshman guard Shyanne Sellers. Reese notched a career-high 21-point, 14-rebound double-double and led her team in scoring. Sellers contributed 17 points off the bench and was one of five Terps to reach double-digit scoring.
“I thought [Sellers] was fearless and confident,” Frese said. “She belonged, and that’s what you need to be able to have, especially with Diamond out.”
Reese also raved about Sellers’ impact on the court.
“She’s really confident as a freshman, and she stepped up really well,” Reese said. “I just love how confident she is and ready to play every time she comes into work.”
The fans are back and energize the Terps
After a year of quiet stadiums and self-generated energy, the Terps welcomed back fans to the Xfinity Center in College Park.
“I can’t say how [much] we really missed our fans,” Frese said. “It felt special to be able to look up and hear that noise and not have an empty, silent arena like we did last year. It’s something that we really value and appreciate.”
For players like Reese, who hails from Baltimore, hearing the locals in full voice was a welcome change from her freshman season.
“Being a hometown girl, I’m so happy to be home and being able to play in front of my family,” she said. “This is my first time playing in front of fans, and today was my first home game since last year.”
“Just being able to come out and play in front of our fans and being able to see them in the stands is great,” added Owusu.