Through the first half of action, No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball found itself closer than it would have liked with Longwood, thanks in part to the Lancers’ strong shooting.
In the first minute of the second half, that would soon change.
Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby blocked Tra’Dayja Smith’s shot attempt just six seconds into the half. Bibby kicked it up to junior guard Ashley Owusu, who found graduate student guard Katie Benzan for a three. On the Lancers’ next offensive possession, it was deja vu for the Terps. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese altered a shot at the rim and found Owusu on the outlet pass. Owusu dished it to Benzan, who splashed in her second consecutive three. Maryland led 53-34 just 50 seconds into the third quarter, taking full control of the game and never relinquishing it.
A balanced Maryland scoring attack featuring five players in double-digits propelled the Terps to a season-opening 97-67 triumph.
“Through the quarters, I thought we got better,” Frese said. “I thought we responded at halftime and our second and third quarters...we’re able to do some great things.”
The Xfinity Center was loud for the 11 a.m. tip, filled with young students for the program’s annual Field Trip Day. Benzan would give them something to cheer for early, draining a three just 13 seconds in for Maryland’s first points of the season.
The Terps jumped out to an 11-4 lead with strong play from redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins, who had nine points in the first quarter. Longwood gave the ball away frequently with seven turnovers in the first frame, but it was able to score with Maryland in the early going.
“The veteran leadership of Mimi to start the first quarter was spectacular,” Frese said. “I mean, she came out, put the team on her back. That’s what you’re looking for veterans to be able to do when it’s kind of weathering that storm for your young kids.”
With just over two minutes to play in the first quarter, Longwood jumped out in front 19-16. Junior guard Anne-Hamilton Leroy converted on two of three free throws after Collins fouled her on a three-point attempt. Maryland’s Owusu responded with a personal 5-0 run of her own, sinking a long two and converting on an old-fashioned three-point play in the final minute of the quarter.
The Terps were back up 21-19, but junior guard Kyla McMakin hit a tough fallaway jumper to even the score at 21 after 10 minutes.
Starting the second quarter on a high note was Reese, scoring the frame’s first five points. She picked up a big steal about halfway through the quarter, pushing the ball all the way up the floor and dishing it to Bibby. Bibby missed the layup, meaning Reese would not get the assist, but the Terps had three chances before Collins eventually converted on two free throws.
The Lancers, led by McMakin’s 10 first-half points and tough shots, continued to stick around. That was until Owusu started to fill the stat sheet. The star guard filled the stat sheet with nine points in the final three and a half minutes of the second quarter. She piled in shots from mid-range and powered through another and-one to get there. Included in that mix were two dimes to freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, one resulting in a layup and one in a made three, for the rookie’s first collegiate points.
“Just not letting them take me off the game,” Owusu said on the defensive looks she received. “There was a few times I let someone else get the ball, but just being aware that I am being double-teamed.”
Sellers’ first three-pointer came with 48 seconds to play in the half and extended Maryland’s lead to 47-31. Smith nailed a three to cut Maryland’s lead to 13 at the half, but it was clear the momentum was back in Maryland’s favor.
Maryland’s 15-5 start to the third quarter pushed its lead to 62-39 in a hurry. The Terps forced four turnovers as its defense started to tighten up, leading to improved offensive production.
“I just think we tried to speed them up,” Collins said of Maryland’s defensive adjustments. “We weren’t really in the gap, per se, we were really sloppy in the beginning. But when Coach B told us to get in our gaps...when we use our length and just got in the gaps and do what [we’re] supposed to do, we sped them up and we got the stops that we needed.”
Sellers started to make her presence felt in the third quarter, hitting back-to-back threes. The freshman was excellent in the period, scoring 10 points on 4-5 shooting, bringing her to 15 total points on the day.
Forward Emma Chardon, Sellers’ freshman counterpart, recorded her first collegiate points in the final seconds of the quarter with a layup. Maryland’s lead ballooned to 76-47 with only ten minutes to play, as the Terps’ offense — shooting 53.3% from distance — seemed to be in midseason form.
Longwood started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run, deflating the Terps’ lead back to 20 points. The run forced head coach Brenda Frese to use a timeout, and Maryland immediately responded. Junior guard/forward Faith Masonius picked up an offensive board and kicked it to Reese for an easy two, plus the foul.
Masonius continued a solid fourth, converting on an and-one and dishing it to Reese for a layup on the Terps’ next possession. With three minutes to play, she then stole the ball and took it herself for an easy deuce. Masonius added yet another bucket after, settling the storm by bringing the Terps lead up to 28.
Sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova’s three in the final minute was the icing on the cake for Maryland. Though they had the normal first-game ups and downs, it was a clinical offensive performance for the Terps.
Three things to know
1. Longwood’s shooting allowed it to stay in the game in the first half. Every time it seemed that Maryland was inevitably going to pull away, the Lancers responded with a tough make. Longwood controlled the perimeter on the offensive end, making five of its 11 three-point attempts in the first half. If it were not for its steady shooting, Longwood probably would have been out of this one much earlier. The Lancers had trouble taking care of the ball in the first 20 minutes, turning the ball over 12 times.
2. Angel Reese was a monster on the glass. By the time Reese reached her career-high in rebounds, the third quarter was not even over yet. The Baltimore native, in her first regular-season game in front of the Xfinity Center fans, controlled the backboard, securing 14 rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time. Reese becoming a rebounding machine for the Terps will only help push her towards that sophomore year breakout that many are expecting.
“If I can’t do anything I can rebound,” Reese said. “So just knowing that, helping my teammates, I mean, I’m the biggest one out there. So I’m expected to get rebounds. I think my rebounds help me get to my baskets.”
3. Shyanne Sellers shined in her regular-season debut. With star junior guard Diamond Miller still day-to-day with a knee injury, more minutes would be up for grabs on Maryland’s bench. Making the most of that playing time would be freshman guard Shyanne Sellers. ESPN’s No. 22 recruit in the class of 2021 was good in Maryland’s exhibitions, but to see her play well in her first Division I game is a different story. Sellers was poised, registering 17 points on 7-12 shooting from the field, while also adding three steals on the defensive end.
“I thought she did really well,” Frese said. “The one thing I’ve been kind of real firm with her is taking care of the basketball. She’s, [in] the first two exhibition games was turning the ball over way too much. And so I loved seeing the stat today with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. I thought she was fearless, I thought she was confident and she belonged.”