The deck was stacked against No. 2 Maryland women’s basketball from the opening tip against No. 5 NC State. Sophomore guard Diamond Miller, who traveled with the team, did not play due to continued knee discomfort, which has kept her out for a majority of the season.
Neither graduate guard Katie Benzan, the team’s top three-point shooter, nor junior guard/forward Faith Masonius, the Terps’ best zone defender and vital depth piece, traveled to the Bahamas due to illness.
NC State was ahead by 10 points after the first half and went into the locker room at halftime up by 22. The gap proved too much for Maryland to surmount, and the Terps picked up their first loss of the season.
“Through the first half, they punched first, they were very, very aggressive,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “I think it put us on our heels.”
Here are several takeaways from the matchup with the Wolfpack.
Lack of depth unraveled the Terps
Uncontrollable circumstances meant that Maryland had just seven healthy players, and late-game cramping from junior guard Ashley Owusu forced Frese to turn to the few players she had available.
Sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova, who has been used sparingly to start the season, logged a career-high 24 minutes against NC State.
But despite all the adversity Maryland faced, the team showed resiliency in the face of extreme shorthandedness.
“Obviously, for us to come in here without five players and two that are starters for us,” Frese said, “I love the fact, given what we didn’t have, of just the fight that we had in the second half.”
Even though Maryland’s play improved throughout the game, a 22-point deficit at halftime proved too difficult to overcome. Fatigue and lack of depth hurt the Terps against a relentless NC State that got minutes from 12 different players.
“If we would have played like we did in the second half, would have been a much more competitive game. But, I thought all the credit goes to NC State,” Frese said. “They poured it on for 40 minutes, and you need to be able to have that kind of depth to be able to compete with the depth and the talent that NC State has.”
The shots didn’t fall for Maryland
In what was the team’s worst offensive performance of the year — Maryland was held to a season-low 60 points — the Terps were 23-of-67 (34%) from the field, 5-for-24 from three (21%) and 9-of-13 from the line (69%).
“We shot way too many threes,” Frese said. “To not have Katie Benzan in here and to shoot 24 threes is way too many threes for us to be able to put up in this game. I thought we settled. I thought we got tired.”
Individually, Frese was less than pleased with several of her starters, mainly Mimi Collins. The redshirt junior forward had a season-low two points after averaging over 10 points per game through six matches.
“Mimi Collins has to show up for us; she’s got to be able to give us more than two points,” Frese said. “Our starters have to show up.”
The criticism may come across as a bit harsh, though, as Collins has consistently been one of Maryland’s top players this year in terms of points and rebounds. Down significant numbers and facing a stingy NC State defense in the paint may have resulted in a down game for Collins.
There were some silver linings in this matchup
There are very few times in sports when there are no positives to take from a match, so let’s focus on some positives from an 18-point loss in the Bahamas.
To start, Maryland outscored the Wolfpack in the second half.
“I loved how we competed in the second half,” Frese said. “I thought, you know, to outscore such a great team like NC State, 33 to 29, in the second half.”
After trailing by 22 going into the half, Maryland easily could have folded, especially with seven healthy players available. But the team improved in the final 20 minutes to earn a moral victory of sorts.
“I learned a lot in the second half,” Frese said. “I thought this team could have gone in two directions — you get beat by 30 or 40, or you come back and you respond. I loved our response in the second half.”
Angel Reese, Maryland’s top scorer on the day with a season-high 24 points and nine rebounds, emphasized the importance of perseverance and mental toughness.
“So we believe in each other, and we fight all 40 minutes and give our all,” the Baltimore native said of her pride in the fight her teammates showed. “I feel like everybody gave everything they could.”
Although the Terps may have dropped their first game of the season, NC State is a tough opponent and Frese’s team has a challenging slate ahead to bounce back quickly and showcase its talent on both ends of the court.