After going 0-2 in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving week, it looked at times on Thursday that a third loss was on the way for No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball.
However, an impressive fourth quarter in which the Terps outscored Miami 23-14, grabbed 13 rebounds and committed one turnover helped close the door on the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The scoreline might have come as a shock to some, but Miami is making a case to crack the top-25 rankings, and the Associated Press should take note. In the Bahamas, the Hurricanes came within two points and forced 24 turnovers against No. 6 Indiana. Then, they marched into Xfinity Center and nearly stole the game from No. 8 Maryland.
“After this schedule,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said, “I think you’re gonna start talking about Miami a little bit too because I think we really showed up.”
There were some nervy moments on Thursday night, but the Terps bailed themselves out in the fourth.
“Just a tremendous battle,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought we showed a lot of grit and resiliency there in the fourth quarter... It was a terrific response by the players because I thought we were getting outworked in outhustled in the first half.”
Here are several takeaways from the matchup with Miami.
Angel Reese had a career night for Maryland.
Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese keeps finding ways to impress. In her second year, the Baltimore native is averaging a double-double and seemingly breaks her career average on a nightly basis.
Versus Miami, Reese logged a career-high 26 points and 15 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass. She also went 10-for-14 from the field.
“I mean Angel with the monster game,” said Frese after the match. “You know, career-high in points and rebounds and needed every single one of them.”
The only blemish came from the line, where Reese was 6-for-12. Still, she drew nine fouls and made life difficult for Miami’s bigs. After struggling for stretches in the Bahamas, Reese rediscovered her scoring touch Thursday night.
“I was hungry,” Reese said. “I was part of our last loss. I didn’t contribute everything I could because I was in foul trouble, and I felt like I was undisciplined within the team. So being disciplined tonight, I only had three fouls, which is good for me. Just being disciplined and learning from that and just coming out hungry and hard to win tonight.”
Questions remain for the Terps despite the bounce-back win.
It’s no secret that Maryland has a short bench. It was apparent against NC State and Stanford, two games that ended as double-digit losses, and Frese again relied on limited players against Miami.
On Thursday evening, only seven players took the court; sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova and freshman forward Emma Chardon did not enter the game, and freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, who had averaged 33 minutes before the Miami bout, logged a minimal 16. What’s more, with the game on the line in the second half, Frese played Sellers for just four minutes.
With sophomore guard Diamond Miller’s knee injury that’s being deemed as a day-to-day injury, Frese effectively plays seven players. And when several players miss time — guard Katie Benzan and forward Faith Masonius missed significant time due to illness — the juggernaut that is Maryland basketball looks less like a dynamo and more like a dud at times.
“Now we get Katie and Faith back, and we get the team to be able to be in a rhythm together,” Frese said. “We’ve got to be able to get that continuity back with everyone being together.”
Then there was the matter of turnovers; Maryland was careless with the ball in the first half.
“If we want to be an elite level team, we’ve got to be able to guard. We’ve got to be able to value the basketball; we had too many unforced turnovers,” Frese said.
Frese continues to hold her players accountable early in the season.
Frese demands accountability. She asks a lot from her players, but her coaching style has led to over 500 wins and national recognition.
After guard Ashley Owusu didn’t dive for a loose ball early in the affair, Frese called out her top playmaker. And when Owusu went to the bench, Frese still was in the ear of the junior guard.
“Ashley’s got to set the tone,” Frese said. “She’s our floor general. She’s our leader. She has the most experience without Diamond here. She’s won a gold medal, so the expectations are really high for Ashley. But she shoulders them, she accepts it and wants that responsibility and knows that I’m just trying to make her the best player she can possibly be and to prepare for the next level.”
“I’m just realizing I got to play harder,” Owusu said. “I’m the floor general, so I set the tone for my team. So just being able to come out and do everything that’s needed for us to get the win.”
Later in the game, Miller was on forward Mimi Collins’ case after the redshirt junior failed to help up a teammate who had been knocked to the floor.
Doing the little things as a team might not seem significant in December, but mental mistakes could be the difference between playing in April or going home in March.
Frese makes that clear with her coaching style.