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Three takeaways from No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball’s 73-59 Big Ten-opening win over Rutgers

The Terps are now 8-2 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 8 Maryland women's basketball won its second game in a row on Sunday, defeating Rutgers on the road, 73-59.

“Obviously, we’re excited to be able to get our first win in conference, to start conference play,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought, like it typically is, I mean I thought Rutgers played really, really hard. I thought they competed for 40 minutes. They were physical, they were aggressive, they beat us on the glass. Really slowed the tempo down for us, and we were fortunate to be able to come out with a win.”

Rutgers stuck around with Maryland early, shooting 54% from the field and only trailing by two after the first quarter. Maryland pulled away a bit in the second quarter for a 38-23 halftime lead, but Rutgers refused to fade in the third and fourth quarters. It was a good litmus test for the Terps to see where they stand after their two losses over Thanksgiving in The Bahamas. Maryland is now 2-0 with wins over Miami and Rutgers since then.

Let’s dive into the takeaways from Maryland’s victory to open up conference play.

Maryland held the lead for all but the first 14 seconds when the game was tied 0-0.

It was truly a complete wire-to-wire performance for the Terps, who did not trail for the entirety of the game.

The set to begin the game was for a Katie Benzan three-point attempt, which is so often seen from Maryland. The graduate student guard splashed it in from the right wing, handing the Terps a 3-0 lead. Maryland would never look back from there.

The Terps only led 18-16 after 10 minutes but rattled off an impressive 10-0 run to begin the second quarter. Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby hit a layup, redshirt junior forward Collins sunk a close jumper and Benzan and sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese each added layups to make it a 10-point advantage.

Frese installed the 1-2-2 press that Maryland has used all season, and it appeared to jumble Rutgers’ offensive plans. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, and Maryland generated 14 points from them.

Rutgers cut Maryland’s lead to as little as four in the fourth quarter, but the Terps had a response every time. Maryland will get everybody’s best shot in Big Ten play, and rightfully so, but showed poise in never letting go of its grip on the game.

“I think they continue to show their resilience in the fourth quarter when they make these games closer than they need to be,” Frese said. “...There’s gonna come a time and a place where you’re going to be matched. So, it’s areas that we’ve got to continue to improve on as a team.”

With Benzan and redshirt junior guard/forward Faith Masonius both in their second game back from illness, the Maryland lineup was starting to look more like the one that everyone has become used to. However, junior guard Diamond Miller (knee) did not play again, and it is unclear when she will return.

The Terps used an extremely balanced scoring attack featuring four players in double figures.

Maryland did not come close to its scoring average going into Sunday of 84.6 points per game and did not have a player explode for 20-plus points. Instead, the Terps found a different way to pull out a gritty win on the road in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Reese led the Terps with 18 points, six of which came in the last three minutes and change of the game. Right behind her was Benzan, who scored 15 points, eight of which came in the first half and seven that came in the second half.

Bibby also scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven boards, marking a solid game from her.

“I love when Chloe’s in this mindset,” Frese said. “I mean, her game was flawless tonight. And you saw like, because she is a really tough matchup. The fact that she can shoot the three so quick and then be able to go in and be really physical and really aggressive. Even defensively, I thought she made great plays for us down on the glass, I mean we needed all seven of those boards that she went and got for us.”

The other double-digit scorer was star junior guard Ashley Owusu, who had 12 points and only took six shots from the field. It was a quieter game for Owusu, who also fouled out with about a minute to play in the fourth quarter.

“I like to put confidence in Ashley,” Reese said. “I mean, sometimes I feel like she doesn’t get the credit that she does, and I think today she was a little down on herself...I just wanted to pick her up and stay on top of her because I feel like I can talk to her, and I think she listens to me.”

Other scorers included Collins with eight points, Masonius with two points and freshman guard Shyanne Sellers with four points.

On a night where Owusu was limited and no one produced a takeover performance, the Terps found a way to win. Maryland held Rutgers to 36% shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers, doing it on both ends of the floor.

Angel Reese was effective but limited by foul trouble in the Big Ten opener.

Reese led the Terps in scoring on Sunday but only played 23 minutes, as she was limited due to foul trouble.

The first foul that Reese committed was an offensive foul just under two minutes into the game, and she picked up her second right before halftime. The Baltimore native and rising superstar for the Terps was tabbed with her fourth foul with about eight minutes to play and was substituted out of the game. Frese put her back on the floor for the final four minutes of the game, where she did a solid job by not fouling out and scoring six more points.

“I mean, it’s tough...I’ve got in foul trouble every single game except last game, I think,” Reese said. “But, I mean, trying to fight through it mentally and stay prepared for it...just being able to be smart. I got to be smarter, of course. I mean, Big Ten play starts today, so I just got to be smarter when it comes to that thing.”

Reese has become an incredible impact player on the offensive end for the Terps and has had incredible games against All-American competition such as NC State’s Elissa Cunane and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. Reese’s performance today followed up her dazzling outing against Miami where she posted career-highs in points (26) and rebounds (15).

As Maryland gets into the thick of Big Ten play and a monster non-conference matchup with No. 1 South Carolina and forceful big Aliyah Boston awaits, Reese will have to be careful with her fouling. She is currently averaging 3.4 fouls per game. Fortunately for Maryland, she stayed in the game against the Scarlet Knights and gave the Terps a major boost in their victory.

“I didn’t foul out today,” a laughing Reese said. “We made it through another game.”