Leading by only one possession against winless Rutgers about halfway through the third quarter, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball could just not put the Scarlet Knights away.
Fortunately for the Terps, sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese was relentless on the offensive glass and was starting to get rewarded. She grabbed a difficult offensive rebound by the baseline with about five minutes to play in the quarter and dished it to graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby for a wide-open layup.
On the other end in the ensuing defensive possession, Reese swatted graduate student forward Osh Brown’s layup, which led to a pretty finish by junior guard Ashley Owusu. Maryland was leading 45-38 at the third-quarter media timeout, and Reese’s fight was the reason why.
Maryland came out with that same intensity following the media timeout. This time, it was Bibby grabbing the offensive rebound, kicking it to Benzan for her first three-pointer of the day. Benzan got going with another quick three-pointer fewer than 20 seconds later, solidifying a 10-0 Maryland run.
Bibby finished with 22 points, while Reese picked up a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Maryland buried Rutgers, 72-55, and improved to 6-3 in Big Ten competition.
“I thought Rutgers battled really, really hard, but loved our response coming out third quarter, second half,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Started playing Maryland basketball, moving the ball, being really, really unselfish. I think we went on a stretch there in the third, 14-2 run and out rebounded them in that stretch 12-1.”
Thursday marked the second matchup this season between the two foes, with Maryland winning at Rutgers in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 5, 73-59. Reese led Maryland with 18 points, while graduate student guard Katie Benzan added 15. The Scarlet Knights won their three remaining non-conference games after that, but they had yet to win a conference game in eight tries coming into Thursday night.
The Terps picked up Thursday’s game right where they left off last Sunday against Northwestern, storming to a 16-7 lead by the first-quarter media timeout. Maryland exploded from the perimeter against the Wildcats with an 18-of-31 showing from deep. That hot shooting continued early, as Maryland made six of its first 10 shots from the field, two of which were three-pointers.
Through 10 minutes, Maryland owned a 19-9 advantage by virtue of its 54% shooting start. Reese was already active in the first quarter with six points, four rebounds and one steal. The Terps were doing it on both ends, though, holding Rutgers to only 4-of-17 shooting in the beginning period.
It looked like Maryland was going to run away with the game to start the second quarter, but Rutgers scored six of the quarter’s first eight points to cut it to a two-possession game and force Frese to burn her first timeout. Frese’s squad responded to her sense of urgency with a triple from junior guard Diamond Miller out of the timeout, and Maryland led 24-15 with six and a half minutes to play in the first half.
Rutgers, which owned the second-best scoring defense in the Big Ten through its first eight games, quieted the Terps in the second frame. The Scarlet Knights were able to muck it up and forced Maryland to play their game.
This allowed Rutgers to keep it close before halftime, limiting Maryland to only 11 second-quarter points. Maryland held a 30-26 lead heading into the halftime break, though it could not be too pleased. The Terps only scored four points in the last five minutes of the first half.
Owusu started the third quarter with a three from the wing, and the Terps immediately displayed their signature 1-2-2 look with Benzan at the “one” on defense.
But, the Scarlet Knights refused to go away.
With every Maryland bucket, Rutgers had an answer. A 5-0 spurt cut it to just a 37-36 Maryland lead with about seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Frese called another timeout with her team’s lead only at one.
The Terps responded with their 10-0 stretch shortly after the timeout, and they would never look back.
It took a while for it to happen, but Maryland was in firm control through three quarters, leading 55-42. The Terps outscored the Scarlet Knights by nine in the third period.
Graduate student guard Shug Dickson and Bibby traded three points apiece to start the fourth quarter. It was Bibby who had the upper hand though, hitting another triple to bring her to a team-leading 19 points on the day.
“Chloe’s second half was one of the best halves and games that I thought,” Frese said. “She just played with a ton of energy and moved off the bounce, and we need her parents to come out more often.”
On her bobblehead night and with her parents in attendance from Australia, Bibby was outstanding against Rutgers.
“I mean, it was just great,” Bibby said. “I love playing with this team. It was just awesome to have my parents here, they haven’t seen me play in a while, so just great to have them here.”
The Terps were just too much for the Scarlet Knights as the quarter went on. Maryland had its fingerprints all over the game with fewer than five minutes to play, leading 65-49.
It was smooth sailing to finish the game, and Maryland polished off its 12th win in the last 13 games against the Scarlet Knights.
Three things to know
1. Rutgers forced a sloppy game in the second quarter, keeping it afloat and making Maryland play to their style. The Terps regressed to shooting only 29.4% in the second quarter and had 10 total turnovers in the first half. The period was a bit similar to the third quarter in the first meeting between the two teams, where Maryland only scored 14 points. The Terps — albeit without Miller and with junior guard/forward Faith Masonius — turned the ball over 23 times against Rutgers in December. Despite the vast difference in the team’s records, Rutgers’ defense still gave the Terps fits.
“I thought we came out really, really strong in the first quarter, and then I don’t know if it was we relaxed, and obviously Rutgers was going to compete and fight for 40 minutes,” Frese said. “I mean you see that in conference now, whether you’re at the top of the league or the bottom of the league, I mean these teams are going to compete and come after you for 40 minutes.”
2. Rutgers did not take care of the basketball. The Scarlet Knights hit the 20-turnover mark with more than three minutes to play in the third quarter. If you want to win on the road against a perennial Big Ten powerhouse, that is never a good place to start. Rutgers held its own on defense, but it just did not avoid the mistakes it needed to if it were to upset the Terps. The Scarlet Knights finished with 26 turnovers in 40 minutes.
“The 26 turnovers is not acceptable,” acting Rutgers head coach Timothy Eatman said. “But I credit Maryland, but I understand the things that we need to do to get better, we can play better than that.”
3. Though it was scary at times, Maryland held the lead for all but 36 seconds. Reese scored the game’s first bucket 10 seconds in, and Rutgers responded with a three-pointer from graduate student guard Sayawni Lassiter. The Scarlet Knights held the lead for 26 seconds, and that was all. Rutgers had a chance by cutting it to one in the second half, but Maryland bent and did not break.
It was not a signature game for Maryland by any means, but the Terps played a great second half to earn a double-digit win and sweep Rutgers. Bibby put forth her third 20-plus point performance in the last five games, an encouraging sign for Maryland. The Terps delivered 18 assists on 27 made field goals, a positive stat that epitomizes Maryland basketball. It was also another encouraging performance on the defensive perimeter, an area of recent concern. Rutgers only shot 4-of-15 from three-point range.
“Again, we’re playing a lot harder,” Frese said. “...We’re disrupting, we’re getting out in passing lanes. I love the energy that Ashley’s giving us right now, I mean she’s setting the tones on both ends of the floor, and she knows if she lets that dip then the head coach is going to be on her. I love where she’s at and it’s dictating the tone for us.”