No. 3 Maryland women’s basketball punched its opponent in the mouth for the second straight game, as a quick start would again be the key to victory.
The Terps’ “Three Musketeers,” as redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins named herself, sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese and graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby, were active early. A Collins steal led to an and-one for Reese. Following that was a Bibby offensive board and layup and a Collins mid-range jumper, propelling the Terps to the early run. Maryland raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first three and a half minutes, forcing Mount St. Mary’s head coach Antoine White to use his first timeout.
The early run, which would extend even further, was only an indicator in a game where both sides of the ball clicked to perfection for Maryland. Maryland, led by Collins’ and Reese’s 18 points apiece, closed the gates on the game early on, pummeling the Mountaineers, 98-57.
“I loved our start,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “That was the one thing that we’ve been talking about is getting out to a hot start and I love that first quarter. When you talk about holding them to seven points, I thought it was a pretty complete game for us.”
Mount St. Mary’s first timeout did not spark much, as first-quarter dominance would continue for Maryland. It stretched its game-opening run to 16-0 before the Mountaineers could finally get on the board. It was no surprise that after 10 minutes, Maryland’s three leading scorers were Bibby, Collins and Reese.
“We’ve always been the Three Musketeers,” Collins said. “Because like when you talk about being in the paint, but also being so versatile, because like we could play like all-around because we are able to draw it and just like our game period. But you got to also think there’s like 12 of us who can all score at will.”
The Mountaineers had no answer for Maryland’s athleticism and size, trailing the Terps 23-7 at the end of the first quarter.
With junior guard/forward Faith Masonius ruled out with an illness, per a team spokesperson, Maryland’s thin rotation would become thinner. Star junior guard Diamond Miller is out with a knee injury and graduate student guard Channise Lewis has not dressed all season as she works her way back from her second ACL tear. That left the Terps with an eight-player roster against The Mount, meaning everyone would get minutes.
Luckily for Maryland, junior guard Ashley Owusu looked like herself. Owusu rolled her ankle in the third quarter of Sunday’s road victory against James Madison and did not return. However, as the Washington Post’s Kareem Copeland reported Monday, she would be active for tonight’s game.
Owusu really began to get going in the second quarter, piling in six points on 3-for-3 shooting in the first five minutes of the frame. Benzan started to heat up too, draining two threes in the first part of the quarter. The two tag-teamed for a 10-2 run, putting Maryland ahead 38-14 halfway through the quarter.
Powered by a couple of layups from Reese and Owusu, respectively, and an and-one from freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, the Terps let loose a 7-0 run to grow their lead to 51-24. All-Northeast Conference guard Aryna Taylor sunk one free throw to stop the run, but the Terps responded with a Reese putback layup at the horn. At halftime, Maryland’s lead was larger than Mount St. Mary’s score, as it was ahead 53-25.
“I’m just letting the game come to me, per usual, and just trying to let my rebounds get to my points,” Reese said. “My teammates are feeding me and I mean, they were much smaller than us, so I mean, taking advantage of the inside-out was a big thing that we could do this game.”
Maryland’s offense showed no signs of slowing down in the second half, as Benzan’s third and fourth three-pointers and Sellers’ first three on the night brought the Terps’ lead to 67-33 with about five minutes to play in the quarter.
“She’s still the best shooter in the country,” Collins said of Benzan. “Don’t forget.”
With two minutes to play in the third quarter, Benzan, who has an incredible knack for the ball, just simply ripped it away from guard Jada Lee for her third steal of the day. She dished the ball to Bibby for a difficult layup, bringing her to 10 points on the night.
On the next offensive set, Bibby was fouled and rewarded with two free throws. While she made the first, the second rimmed out. There for the board was Reese, who displayed her height and rebounding prowess, reaching over a defender for a rebound and putting it right back up for a bucket. Reese, playing extremely efficiently, showed just a glimpse of what she has excelled at this year on that play.
At the end of the third quarter, Maryland was leading 74-44, shooting 51.7% from the field and 42.9% from distance.
In the fourth quarter, Frese rolled out a young lineup, one featuring Sellers, her freshman counterpart in forward Emma Chardon and sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova. With the game taken care of, it was a perfect opportunity for Frese to get her young players some minutes.
Chardon took advantage of the playing time, as she powered through for a layup and got fouled with just over four minutes to play. She made the free throw to convert the old-fashioned three-point play. On the next offensive series, Kozlova swished a three-pointer from the right wing. Maryland’s lead was now 37, but it was encouraging to see the young players contribute.
Maryland never showed any sign of slowing down in Tuesday’s dominant win. Thursday’s home matchup with UNC Wilmington is next for the Terps.
“The bar is continuing to just worry about us, quite honestly,” Frese said. “It’s not about the score and what this looks like. It’s about us and our standard.”
Three things to know
1. Thanks to their defense, the Terps jumped out strong again. Maryland held a 23-point lead at the end of Sunday’s first quarter against James Madison but did not start that game with the defensive masterclass it did on Tuesday. Maryland’s 16-0 run, which lasted until the 2:13 mark of the first quarter, was not as much of an offensive explosion by the Terps as it was textbook defense. Maryland held the Mountaineers to 3-of-17 shooting in the first period, putting the game out of reach quickly.
2. Maryland’s rotation was smaller than it has been this season. The Terps’ depth took a major blow with Masonius being unavailable tonight. Fortunately for Maryland, it was against an opponent it would have ease with regardless, but the loss of Masonius should not be underestimated. Masonius averaged 5.7 points and 7.7 rebounds, the latter of which ranked second on the team before Tuesday’s game, in 24 minutes per game this season.
With Miller still considered day-to-day, it is unclear when she will return. It will be interesting to see how healthy the Terps are come Sunday when No. 6 Baylor comes to town.
3. The Terps’ two bigs were unstoppable. Although Miller missing time is not a perfect sight for Maryland, it has meant the combination of Reese and Collins will be on the floor together for extended amounts of time. The two of them have been awesome through four games, putting on another clinic tonight. Reese finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds, recording her third double-double in four games. Collins dominated, as well. The Waldorf, Maryland, product scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and shot 8-of-14 from the field.
“That’s always been who we’ve been,” Frese said. “I mean obviously, we didn’t have that luxury [of playing both Collins and Reese at the same time] when Angel went down last year. That’s how we started. So yeah, I mean, I love our size and our length, and so being able to utilize what is flowing, what combinations are the best combinations, is really how I coach.”