Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese said this year’s Big Ten slate was “the most competitive I’ve seen since coming in.” That’s a ringing endorsement of the conference from the 21-year coaching veteran.
The first game of conference play featured a Nebraska team who was coming off a 31-point loss to Virginia Tech and a Maryland women’s basketball program that came off a buzzer-beating win over Notre Dame last week.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers and senior guard Brinae Alexander’s performances were overshadowed by a 90-67 at the XFINITY center as Nebraska dealt a punch on the chin to Maryland. The Huskers had Maryland down 20 with two minutes remaining in the game.
Before Sunday, Maryland was 15-0 all-time against Nebraska, including 7-0 at home.
“I thought the second half was obviously pretty disappointing,” said a mellow Frese after the loss. “I think fatigue obviously played a factor in this game but it isn’t the reason why we lost.”
Maryland senior guard Diamond Miller had a rough first half, playing just six minutes after picking up two fouls. Frese put her in to start the second half, where she hit a 3-pointer early on. Miller finished the game with 13 points and four fouls.
“It really hurts when Diamond had to sit that second quarter, when Brinae gets in foul trouble, we need her on the court,” Frese said. “So the two of them, that’s impactful when they're the ones able to score the basketball for us and give us great energy on both ends of the floor.”
Midway through the opening quarter, Nebraska’s six-foot-two junior forward Isabelle Bourne identified herself as a threat to the Terps after she went on an 8-0 run by herself. She and sophomore center Alexis Markowski, an All-Big Ten center who has a share of the conference lead in rebounds per game, were the co-stars of the Sunday matinee.
If Markowski and Bourne were the main co-stars, then the best supporting role award would go to junior guard Jaz Shelley. Halfway through the third quarter, Shelley had made two more 3-pointers than Maryland’s entire team.
10 first-half lead changes made the conference-opening showdown a competitive one. By the second quarter media timeout, Alexander had knocked down a key 3-pointer to give the lead back to Maryland. She complemented a strong first half from Sellers.
She stayed perfect from the field, starting the game 3-for-3. Alexander hit another key 3-pointer with under three minutes left in the first half, putting Maryland up 32-25. It was part of an 11-0 Maryland run spanning just under four minutes.
Markowski and Bourne combined for 15 of Nebraska’s 31 points through 20 minutes.
The Huskers hit 11 of their 14 shots in the third quarter compared to 46% from Maryland. Nebraska had 29 third-quarter points; Maryland had 29 total second-half points with 4:15 left in regulation.
Nebraska ultimately outscored Maryland 59-32 in the second half, including a 30-11 fourth quarter in the Huskers’ favor.
Three things to know
1. Brenda Frese’s 600th win will have to wait. Head coach Brenda Frese had the chance to earn her 600th win on Sunday. Instead, Nebraska prevented Frese from reaching that career milestone. The 600th win will need to wait until at least Thursday when the team plays Purdue.
2. Maryland’s guards had a poor showing. Abby Meyers and Eliza Pinsan were not much of a factor in Sunday’s game and displayed some uncharacteristic play in the Big Ten opener. Meyers had her lowest scoring game as a Terp finishing with two points, shooting 1 of 7. Meyers and Alexander each finished the game with four fouls.
“We need Abby to do more. We need [Lavender Briggs] to do more. We need our vets to step up and they’re more than capable,” Frese said. “Some off games, and again, we just don’t have the luxury of a deep bench.”
3. Maryland dealt with foul trouble. Maryland had key players in foul trouble against Nebraska, including Diamond Miller, Abby Meyers and Brinae Alexander, who all finished with four fouls. This forced Frese to play reserves more minutes and impacted her lineups throughout the second half.