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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball escapes Rutgers, 73-59

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After back-to-back losses, the Terps have now won two straight.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

When most people look at the postgame box score, their eyes go straight to who led the team in scoring. If you were to peruse the chart from this afternoon, Faith Masonius’ two points might not stand out. But it’s what the New Jersey native did on defense in her home state that made the difference.

With Rutgers fighting late in the fourth, Masonius got up to contest a shot in the paint, blocked the attempt and dove for the loose ball. In the outing, the junior forward/guard had three blocks and six rebounds, but a lot of what she did will never appear on the scoresheet; Masonius was disruptive in the lane and forceful on zone defense.

Backed by Masonius’ defensive effort and with Maryland being able to shut down Rutgers in the final frame, Maryland pulled out the 73-59 win on the road on Sunday afternoon. Maryland is now 8-2 this season and it has won two straight games after it fell short in the Bahamas.

After going 1-for-4 from three on Thursday against Miami, guard Katie Benzan hit her first two attempts from behind the arc against Rutgers.

Sunday afternoon started with two Benzan deep shots — Maryland’s only of the quarter — but the Scarlet Knights were strong on the glass, grabbing a total of 10 in the first period, three of which were offensive rebounds.

“When you’re still missing a big piece without Diamond,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “You’re losing a lot on the glass as well, and your defense and you’re rebounding and you’re scoring, but I love that this team is finding a way and every game is going to be different.”

Still, the Terps — courtesy of Benzan and Chloe Bibby, who combined for 12 points — led by four after one.

“That’s just growth from a freshman to a super senior that I have now,” Bibby said. “I’m pretty old, been out there for a while, so just finishing through that contact.”

A 6-0 run for the visitors forced acting Head Coach Tim Eatman to call for a timeout to stop the bleeding. Out of the break, Rutgers used a run of their own to close the gap to four. The 8-2 run for the hosts coincided with over two and a half minutes of scoreless basketball for Maryland.

After back-to-back 20-point losses in the Bahamas and a single-digit win against Miami, fans of the Terrapins might have forgotten how ruthless this team can be.

On Sunday afternoon, the number eight team in the nation led by 15 points at the half, held Rutgers to seven in the second quarter and outscored the Scarlet Knights 26-12 in the paint through 20 minutes. All this with Maryland shooting 20% from three on 10 attempts.

And the Terps weren’t just flying on offense; their defense was as forceful as ever. Outside of Lasha Petree and Shug Dickson, no Rutgers player logged more than two points. Maryland also forced 12 turnovers, which led to 14 points.

Despite shooting 40% from the field and 33% from three in the third frame, Rutgers hung around and went into the break down just eight.

The home side played well, but Maryland was its own worst enemy. After protecting the ball in the first half — the Terps gave it away five times in the first 20 minutes — Maryland gave possession away on five separate occasions in the third.

Credit has to go to Rutgers for keeping things competitive through 35 minutes, but Maryland put the game out of reach in the dying stages of the fourth. Mimi Collins — eight points — Benzan — 15 points, 50% from three — and Angel Reese — 18 points, six rebounds — all got to the line late in the frame to ice Rutgers’ comeback attempt.

“I love the fact that we got to the free-throw line 27 times,” Frese said. I think we do a good job of being able to get to the free-throw line.”

Even with Ashley Owusu fouling out with 1:14 left, Maryland rode the wave to pick up win number eight on the season and win number one of Big Ten play.

“We’re excited to be able to get our first win in conference, you know, to start conference play,” Frese said. “I thought, like it typically is, I thought Rutgers played really, really hard.”

Dickson led the way on offense for the Scarlet Knights with 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Petree added 11 and Tyia Singleton and Osh Brown had 10 points apiece.

Three things to know

1. Ashley Owusu had a quiet night. Maryland fans have become accustomed to dominant performances from Owusu. She is certainly capable of that at any given moment, but against Rutgers on Sunday, she was quieter than usual. Owusu finished with 12 points on just six shot attempts. She also fouled out in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like [Ashley] doesn’t get the credit that she does,” Reese said. “I think today she was a little down on herself, and 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.”

2. Katie Benzan bounced back, but Mimi Collins is still finding her footing. It’s worth it to address the two questions that were proposed in the preview for the Rutgers match. The first was if Katie Benzan could get going offensively. The second was what kind of game Mimi Collins was going to have. Benzan struggled in her first game back, but she looked like her lethal self from behind the arc against the Scarlet Knights with another 50% shooting clip in the contest. On the other hand, Collins continued her streak of underwhelming games, failing to crack the 10-point mark for a fourth consecutive game.

3. Maryland displayed a balanced offensive attack. When Maryland is clicking offensively, they are getting contributions from all over not just one or two players. That was the case on Sunday as four players scored double figures. Reese had 18 points, Benzan had 15 points, Bibby put in 14 points and Owusu had 12. Maryland shot 53% from the field against Rutgers.

“I love when Chloe’s in this mindset,” Frese said. “Her game was flawless tonight, and you saw she’s a really tough matchup. I mean, 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 on the glass.”