With Penn State tearing on a fierce run in the third quarter, perhaps the biggest shot of the game came from graduate forward/guard Chloe Bibby.
With the Lady Lions down just nine and the shot clock winding down, junior guard Ashley Owusu found Bibby open on the perimeter, and the Australian knocked down a tough three to end the run and put No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball up 12 points.
Things were comfortable for the Terps through the first two quarters; Maryland outscored Penn State by 13 in the first and six in the second. But the home team used a 23-point third quarter to make things interesting heading into the final frame.
“I think the biggest hurdle for this team is just consistency,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “Not proud or pleased with our second half, I thought we took our foot off the pedal and relaxed. Credit to Penn State, they were gonna play hard for 40 minutes and they made a lot of big plays.”
But despite 19 points and five assists from Makenna Marisa, 16 points from Kelly Jekot, who shot 4-for-8 from three, as well as 14 points and seven rebounds from Leilani Kapinus, Maryland withstood Penn State’s charge for its seventh conference win, emerging victorious, 82-71, on Sunday.
After suffering a blowout defeat the first time these sides met in College Park — it lost by 28 in early January — Penn State hung with Maryland for a closer 11-point loss.
A pair of early Maryland giveaways gifted Penn State four points, but the Terps, currently fourth in the conference in rebounding, hauled in nine offensive boards in the first quarter to dominate the offensive side of the ball.
The Lady Lions used a 6-0 run in the latter stages of the first quarter to tie the game at 14, but Maryland responded with a 13-0 run over the final two and a half minutes of the first to close the quarter out in strong fashion; the Terps went into the break ahead 13.
Redshirt junior Mimi Collins, who has been struggling of late, had eight first-quarter points. In comparison, in the team’s most recent game against Rutgers, Collins put up just four in 21 minutes of play. Bibby also had a huge first, going off for 11 points, five rebounds and two steals.
“We just talked a lot about how it was wide open,” Collins said of playing against Penn State’s zone. “They were just backing off from me, and I was making a lot of shots. My teammates had a lot of confidence in me and then once they decided to step up, they left even more players open because that’s just what happens when you play against Maryland.”
From Frese to graduate guard Katie Benzan, everyone knows the skill of sophomore big guard Angel Reese when it comes to drawing defenders in the paint and kicking it out to an open teammate on the perimeter. Reese set Benzan up several times from inside, and the crafty guard returned the favor with a lofted pass to Reese ahead of Penn State’s defense.
“[It’s] huge to be able to have that inside-outside presence,” Frese said of her forwards. “They’re really playing unselfishly, which you’ve got to be able to have — the unselfishness that we showed and being able to knock down shots from the perimeter with such easy plays that they’re making for our guards.”
Maryland ended the quarter going 6-for-8 from the field. On the other hand, Penn State failed to score a field goal in the final three minutes of the period. The half ended with an uncontested Diamond Miller three as time expired, and the deep look put the Terps up 19 at the break.
“I think it’s just my mindset of building confidence in myself and understanding that I could do this,” Miller said. “I think today I moved the needle. I fell off a little bit, but I got back up.”
The third quarter belonged to the Lady Lions, though; the home side outscored their opponents 23-16 and went 9-for-14 from the field and 4-for-6 from deep. Penn State also prevented the Terps from scoring for three minutes until Bibby drained a three as the clock wound down.
The Lady Lions kept the pressure on in the fourth, coming within eight at one point and even outscoring Maryland 19-18 in the final frame. However, the Terps’ strong first half allowed them to walk away with the victory.
Three things to know
1. Mighty Mimi. It took just four minutes Sunday afternoon for Collins to match her scoring output from the previous game against Rutgers. The forward/guard found the soft spots in Penn State’s 2-3 zone for a pair of silky jumpers and looked much more polished and confident early on. In her last nine games, the Tennessee transfer averaged 5.7 points. On Sunday afternoon, she went off for 14 points, her most since Nov. 18.
“I was really, really proud of her to be able to have the game that she had today,” Frese said of Collins. “It’s been a battle. Anyone who battles through nagging injuries and what she’s gone through probably since Christmas, you know, is a hard thing. So just really, really proud of her toughness.”
“I’ve been dealing with some nagging injuries,” Collins said, “but I’m gonna play through it regardless. I’m not the type to just sit for no reason.”
2. Maryland used rebounding to its advantage and found second-chance points. Maryland finished the game out-rebounding Penn State 35-26. The Terps also grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, which ultimately led to 20 second-chance points. Bibby led the rebounding effort for the Terps with 10 boards, six of which came on the offensive side. The Terps came into this game with around a plus-4 rebound margin and they finished it with nine more than Penn State, which led to a plethora of points on the other end.
“A point of emphasis for us in this game was to be able to get on the offensive glass,” Frese said. “I thought we were really locked into doing that. Occasionally, it led to a couple run outs by them when we were crashing so hard, but I liked the aggressiveness that we were able to show today.”
“Now it’s just building those habits when we’re matched in size and length against bigger teams that have two traditional post players that were able to go in and o-board like the way we did tonight,” she continued.
3. Seven, it’s a magic number. With Faith Masonius out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury, Frese has been forced to rely on a seven-player rotation of Miller (19 points, six rebounds), Reese (16 points, four rebounds), Benzan (eight points, three assists), Owusu (two points, two steals), Bibby (17 points, 10 rebounds), Sellers (six points, nine assists, five steals) and Collins (14 points, four rebounds). Against Penn State, three starters scored 17 or more points, and four players finished the outing in double digits.
“We’ve got to be able to have consistency with the rotation of players that we’re playing with,” Frese said. “As a team, we don’t have the luxury with deep numbers, so everybody’s got to show up from game to game.”