No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball won its third straight game Sunday, defeating Penn State on the road, 82-71.
Maryland jumped out to a 27-14 lead after the first quarter, ending the frame on a 13-0 run. The Terps did not look back from there, running the Lady Lions out of the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State was able to bring the deficit to eight points in the fourth quarter, but it never got closer than that again.
“Obviously any time you can get a road win in this conference with as competitive as all the teams are across the board, pleased about that,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought our energy and intensity in the first half was really, really good going into halftime.”
With the victory, Maryland earned a season sweep over Penn State and improved to 7-3 in Big Ten play.
Let’s dive into some takeaways from Maryland’s 15th win of the season.
Maryland exposed the weaknesses of Penn State’s 2-3 zone.
The Lady Lions, when they were not forced to play transition defense, settled into a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game.
Penn State lost 106-78 in the first matchup between the two teams, so head coach Carolyn Kieger can not necessarily be blamed for trying to throw different looks at Maryland in matchup two.
However, the Lady Lions did a poor job committing on defense, leaving the area around the foul line extended wide-open for Maryland. The Terps were smart enough to take advantage and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins came off the bench to prove that.
Collins continuously flashed to that area and she was able to do damage frequently. If Penn State left her open at the charity stripe, she would step into a 15-foot jumper and casually drill it. If they hedged at Collins, she is good enough on the fly to make the extra pass and create more ball movement among her teammates.
“We watched a lot of film on just their defense, their offense and how they run things,” Collins said. “We just talked a lot about how it was wide open, so once you get in the middle, you can see the whole floor. You can skip it, you can shoot your own shot, and they were just backing off for me, for I don’t know what reason.”
Even with the size of 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Ali Brigham — who did not play on Jan. 6 against the Terps — Penn State felt the zone would work best. Whether it was Collins (10 first-half points) or graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby (11 first-half points) doing damage, it did not seem to affect Maryland’s offensive production, portrayed by its 48 first-half points.
“I was just making a lot of shots, my teammates had a lot of confidence in me,” Collins added. “And once they decided to step up, it left even more players open, because that’s just what happens when you play against Maryland.”
The Terps were not as efficient in the third quarter, scoring only 16 points, but they did enough to escape University Park, Pennsylvania, with a win.
Penn State did not take care of the basketball, and Maryland made sure to take advantage.
20 turnovers against Maryland on Jan. 6 did not help Penn State’s upset bid and neither did its 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes against Maryland.
To knock off teams like Maryland in the Big Ten, taking care of the basketball has to be a priority. The Terps score too many points per game to just give away opportunities on the offensive end. That showed on Sunday.
In the first half, the Lady Lions gave the ball to Maryland 15 times. The Terps turned those 15 turnovers into 17 points in 20 minutes alone.
“It was good that we got a lot of steals today, but our defense still needs a lot of work,” said junior guard Diamond Miller, who finished with three steals. “So we’re gonna go back to the drawing back, watch some film, and really focus on our defense in practice and stuff like that.”
Penn State made 52% of its shots in the first half, but it only had 23 attempts at the basket compared to 42 for Maryland. If the Lady Lions cut their turnovers in half, they likely would have been alive heading into the third quarter with the way they were shooting the ball.
The Lady Lions had already turned the ball over 20 times before the end of the third quarter.
Penn State finished the game with 24 turnovers, while Maryland turned them into 23 points.
“We got a lot of steals today, but we still need to thread the needle in that department,” Miller said.
The Terps used a balanced scoring attack featuring four double-digit scorers.
The narrative often surrounding Maryland is that any given player could lead the team in scoring on any given night. That has not been seen during every game this season, but it was certainly the case Sunday.
Miller scored 19 points, her second-highest scoring output of the season. Coincidentally, her season-high of 24 points also occurred against the Lady Lions. Miller seemingly likes playing Penn State and hit some timely shots when Penn State cut Maryland’s lead to single digits in the second half.
Also scoring more than 15 points was Bibby and sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese. Bibby’s 17 points mark her fourth game in her last six where she has scored at least that many points. The Australian, who also went 2-of-3 from deep Sunday, is emerging into a major offensive weapon for the Terps at the right time. Reese, with 16 points, recorded her 15th game of the year with at least 15 points.
“Huge to be able to have that inside-outside presence,” Frese said. “They’re really playing very unselfishly, which you've got to be able to have when you’re able to enter that in. The unselfishness that we showed and then being able to knock shots from the perimeter with such easy plays that [the forwards] are making for our guards.”
Perhaps the most exciting of the four performances, though, was Collins’ 14-point showing. Dealing with separate groin and toe injuries and now coming off the bench, Collins has not put forth the performances Maryland has become accustomed to. But, that changed Sunday.
Collins scored 14 points, her most since Maryland’s game against UNC Wilmington more than two months ago on Nov. 18. A performance like this is encouraging for Collins going forward, as Maryland could use them with only a seven-player rotation.
“I told her after the game, I’m really proud of her,” Frese said. “Her toughness is unbelievable to watch and she's never complained about it. All she’s continued to do is get in and rehab and not make excuses, not share with what she's juggling. And just playing unselfishly for this team.”
The Terps did not get much from junior guard Ashley Owusu, who had a season-low two points. However, freshman guard Shyanne Sellers contributed in a major way with nine assists off the bench.
Each player had each other’s backs on Sunday, and Maryland’s unselfishness was a huge reason why it has won three straight contests.