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No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball uses strong start to overpower James Madison, 81-45

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Maryland’s 29-point first quarter helped it pull away.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

In its first road contest of the season, No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball wasted no time delivering the first punch.

Leading by 19 early in the second quarter, not much changed for Maryland. Junior guard Ashley Owusu got to the charity stripe in the first couple of minutes, draining both free throws. She followed up those makes with a steal and beautiful cross-court dish to graduate student guard Katie Benzan. Benzan’s three rimmed out, but there for the putback layup was sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese. The Terps led 33-10, and James Madison head coach Sean O’Regan had to burn the third of his four timeouts before the eight-minute mark of the second quarter.

Maryland was instrumental all day long. Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby’s team-leading 19 points helped guide the Terps to an 81-45 victory.

“What a special road win,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought it was probably our most complete 40-minute game, which is exciting, too. We knew how difficult of a place this was from past experience.”

It took a few offensive sets for the Terps to get going, but a reverse layup by Owusu just under two minutes in broke the ice for both teams.

Maryland jumped out to an early nine-point lead about halfway through the first quarter, forcing James Madison to use a timeout. Along with Owusu, graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby propelled the Terps to a strong start. Bibby had a couple of three-point plays in the first frame, converting on a difficult layup plus the foul and drilling a shot from distance.

“I think we just locked in from the start, and my teammates are finding me,” Bibby said.

A dream first quarter continued for Maryland, and it was Owusu who was getting anything she wanted. The Terps ended the final four-plus minutes of the period on a 17-4 run. Benzan started to get cooking with a three and a floater to bring Maryland’s lead to 17-6. But it was Owusu, mixed in with a couple of threes from redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins and freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, who led the way.

Owusu was getting anything she wanted off the dribble, pulling up from mid-range and slicing into the paint for easy deuces. At the end of the first quarter, Maryland was leading 29-10, and Owusu had already matched the Dukes’ point total.

Maryland’s strong start to the second quarter led to the Dukes’ third timeout.

James Madison responded to its coach, coming out of the timeout on a 10-4 run. The Dukes were able to string together a bit of a response, but Maryland’s lead was just far too large as it weathered the storm.

The Terps ended the half with another Sellers’ three and a Benzan floater to bring the lead back up to 23. Maryland was doubling James Madison’s score at halftime, winning 46-23.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Sellers said. “It’s really fun. I have a great coach and great teammates that help me out and help me evolve my game and understand the game and what I’m going to see.”

Bibby started the second half on a 5-0 personal run, putting in a layup off a miss and nailing her second three of the day.

A potentially scary situation occurred just under 90 seconds into the half. Crossing half-court, Owusu was fouled by senior guard Jaylin Carodine, and she hit the floor immediately. Owusu was tending to her lower leg around her ankle and had to be helped off the floor by two people without putting pressure on her leg. Instead of heading straight to the locker room, Owusu was being tended to at the end of the bench.

Maryland still held control over the game, but its offense struggled in the middle of the third quarter, going over four minutes without a field goal. Without Owusu — who did not check back into the game — Maryland needed a source of offense, and it came from Bibby.

Bibby left her fingerprints all over the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the period, bringing her to 19 total points on the day.

Maryland’s field-goal drought meant little because of the defensive effort it was putting forward. The Terps held James Madison without a single point for over four minutes at the end of the quarter. After 30 minutes, Maryland was still nearly doubling James Madison’s score, leading 68-36.

Reese put in a free throw in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to bring her to 10 points on the day, meaning she would record her second double-double in three games. Reese finished the day with 14 rebounds, an area she has excelled in thus far.

Defense continued to be a narrative for Maryland as bench players like sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova checked in. The Terps held the Dukes to only two points in the first six minutes of the quarter.

Everyone knows what this Maryland offense can do, but its defense holding its opponent to 45 points while forcing 22 turnovers brings the Terps to a championship level.

“Obviously, not having Diamond [Miller], that’s been, not a challenge, but I’m saying something we have to adapt to,” Bibby said. “I think everyone has elevated their game and have done a really great job in these first three games.”

Three things to know

1. The Terps dominated out of the gates. In its first two games against Longwood and Villanova, Maryland let lesser opponents stick around. The Terps were tied with Longwood after one quarter and only led Villanova by one after 10 minutes. History would not repeat itself against the Dukes, as Maryland came out blazing and never looked back. The Terps held a 19-point advantage after 10 minutes because of a clinical shooting performance. Maryland was a remarkable 75% from the field in the first quarter while making four of six of its three-point attempts.

“It was huge,” Frese said of the strong start. “Our first two games, we didn’t have that. So, to punch first 29-10 in that first quarter, I mean was a big, big difference...that’s just a phenomenal mindset by this team with their first road game with fans, which we didn’t have last season.”

2. Ashley Owusu was the best player on the floor before her injury. Owusu was excellent, recording 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes of play. She controlled the game in all facets, also adding three assists and two rebounds. Regardless of Maryland’s big win, Owusu’s injury is the story of the day. Keep in mind, Maryland is already missing its other star junior guard Diamond Miller, who is day-to-day with a knee injury. If she is to miss extended time, Maryland’s rotation would take a major hit.

“I didn’t really actually see the play,” Frese said of Owusu’s injury. “I think they said she got fouled and then kind of undercut, maybe and kind of rolled her ankle...With the lead and we wanted to be smart, we’ve got a lot of games coming up here. A lot of contact, I think on both ends, just unfortunate.”

3. Chloe Bibby had her best offensive game of the young season. Bibby had a tough first game of the season, only recording two points and going 0-for-7 from the field. She improved against Villanova, scoring 11 points and only missing one field goal attempt as she notched her 1,000th career point. On Sunday, Bibby broke out. Not only were her 19 points an indicator of her explosive offensive night, but Bibby also grabbed four offensive rebounds, creating second opportunities for herself and her teammates.