Since dropping two straight games to No. 7 Michigan and No. 22 Ohio State, No. 17 Maryland bounced back for its second of two convincing wins. After returning from Columbus, The Terps defeated Northwestern by 28 points and Rutgers by 17.
Though there were some nervy moments in the match — the visitors outscored the hosts 17-11 in the second frame — Maryland held Rutgers at bay for all but 36 seconds of the game. A point of emphasis for the Terps after a rough stretch in league play was prioritizing starting strong, and the team did just that.
“I thought we came out really, really strong in the first quarter,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “You see that in conference now, whether you’re the top of the league or the bottom of the league, these teams are gonna compete and come after you for 40 minutes. I thought Rutgers battled really, really hard, but I loved our response coming out.”
The Terps improved to 10-1 at home on the season and 6-3 in conference play. Maryland also held Rutgers to just nine points in the first quarter. The team’s defensive intensity set the tone early in a night where the Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 26 times. Rutgers’ 55 points were also the fewest Maryland has allowed in conference play all season.
Here are several takeaways from Thursday’s win.
Ashley Owusu had another strong game.
As is the case with much of the team, there have been highs and lows this season for junior guard Ashley Owusu. After struggling through some contests where turnovers and scoring were an issue, Owusu has put together back-to-back prolific games.
“I love the energy that Ashley’s giving us right now,” Frese said. “She’s setting the tone on both ends of the floor, and she knows if she lets that dip, the head coach is going to be on her, but I love where she’s at. [She’s] dictating the tone for us.”
Against Rutgers, the Virginia native put up 17 points and three assists on 2-for-5 shooting from three. Against Northwestern back on Jan. 23, Owusu had 15 points and six assists on 5-for-5 shooting from deep. Before knocking down 70% of her threes in the past two games, both of which the Terps have won, Owusu had made just 29% of her deep looks, going 4-for-14.
“I think my teammates are finding me at the right time,” Owusu said of her recent hot streak of three-point shooting. “I also need to shoot the ball with confidence. I think the three-point shot was something I worked a lot on this summer. So just trust myself and my teammates are gonna find every time.”
It was a big night for Chloe Bibby.
Not only was it Chloe Bibby bobblehead night at the Xfinity Center, but the graduate forward’s parents were also in the building from Australia for the first time since she came to Maryland.
“I love playing with this team,” Bibby said. “It was awesome to have my parents here, they haven’t seen me play in a while, so it was great to have them here. My teammates were finding me when I was open, and I thought it was really good defense that led to a lot of our offense. That’s what we’ve been working on in practice, so it was great to see that translate.”
Bibby’s scoring night, a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds, came within one point of matching her season-high, which was 23 against Minnesota. Maybe it was having her parents in the building, or maybe Bibby just took it upon herself to galvanize her team to a much-needed win. Either way, her contributions helped Maryland to its sixth conference win.
“I thought Chloe's second half was one of the best halves in a game,” Frese said. “I thought she just played with a ton of energy and moved off the bounce. We need your parents to come out more often. She just played as hard as she always plays.”
Rebounding is still an issue.
When Maryland and Rutgers first met on Dec. 5, the Scarlet Knights won the rebounding battle, 35-28. And Thursday night, Rutgers again won on the glass, notching four more boards than Maryland.
“I’m not overly excited about continuing to get outrebounded on the glass,” Frese said. “That’s an area we’ve got to continue to improve on.”
In addition to this rematch with Rutgers, the Terps have been outrebounded by a Big Ten opponent in four of its matchups. Maryland has won the battle on the glass against just Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State in the conference. However, against Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Rutgers, the Terps were outrebounded. The largest margin came against Michigan in which the Wolverines pulled in 38 and Maryland had just 23, 10 of those coming from sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese.
Still, after lagging on the glass for most of the game, the Terps, following some strong words from the coaching staff, upped their work rate in the rebounding department in the second half.
“Everyone’s got to rebound and just not assume that [Angel’s] going to get everything,” Frese said. “But I thought the response was terrific. When they took it to heart — I think we were down seven or nine rebounds — they took the ownership at that time, which I thought was huge.”