No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball (20-6, 12-3 Big Ten) won its eighth game in a row Thursday, defeating Ohio State in front of a lively Xfinity Center crowd, 77-72.
Junior guard Ashley Owusu participated in Thursday’s shootaround and went through warmups pregame, but she ultimately did not play against the Buckeyes. The Terps were without their floor general for the fourth straight contest, but they overcame adversity yet again. That has been a common theme for a Maryland team that is peaking at the right time.
Let’s dive into some takeaways from Maryland’s thrilling victory.
Taylor Mikesell loves playing her former team.
It appears that there is no love lost between the Ohio State senior guard and Maryland basketball, at least based on her performances.
Mikesell was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos from the Maryland faithful, but it was the boos that were clearer when all was said and done.
“I’m really happy for Taylor that she’s in a place where she’s happy and stuff like that and she’s doing well,” junior guard Diamond Miller said. “So I’m happy for her success.”
Whatever the overriding emotion from outsiders was, Mikesell did not seem to mind. She scored 33 points in the comfort of The Schottenstein Center in Ohio State’s win over Maryland on Jan. 20 and seemed to pick up exactly where she left off.
The Massillon, Ohio, native was blazing out of the gates, destroying the Terps with 18 first-half points. Maryland lost track of her on the defensive end a couple of times, which seemingly was not a wise choice.
Though she stands at just 5-foot-11, Mikesell has all the abilities of an elite basketball player. She has a quick trigger, both on catch and shoots and in traffic, and is incredibly shifty. Mikesell was shooting an incredible 49.4% from deep coming into the game but proved she is more than just that against the Terps.
“Well we found out she could still make shots here because she made a lot when she played here, so that was good to see,” Buckeyes head coach Kevin McGuff said. “We needed every one of them. She’s a great player, as you guys all know having watched her here. Fortunately, she had great success here and she's doing a great job for us as well.”
Mikesell would not slow down in the second half — she finished with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting — but her 39-minute effort could not lift the Buckeyes to victory.
Maryland turned the tide with a monster third quarter.
At the end of the first half, it could be sensed that the Xfinity Center was starting to come alive.
Trailing by as many as 11 points with fewer than five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Terps chipped away to make it a five-point game at halftime.
Maryland rode the energy of its home crowd into the third frame. Just 65 seconds into the second half, it found itself leading by virtue of a 6-0 spurt. On the first play of the third quarter, Miller stole the ball from junior guard Jacy Sheldon in the backcourt and took it herself for the layup.
With that single sequence, Miller captured the momentum that Maryland had been seeking all night long.
“They punched early, first half we had way too many turnovers, I think we had 10 at half and just really kind of needed to settle down at halftime,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “But the response out of the locker room was terrific. It started with Diamond setting the tone on the defensive end with big plays defensively.”
For a moment, it seemed like Thursday’s game would be a repeat of the Jan. 20 contest in Columbus. In the first meeting between the two teams, Maryland was down 10 points after the first quarter and never found its footing. Even though Maryland was down double digits close to halftime, it would find a way on Thursday.
Ultimately, the Terps outscored the Buckeyes by 10 in the third quarter, 25-15. In the meat of what was a 12-0 run that ended with about two minutes to play in the period. From that point forward, Ohio State would never recover.
The Buckeyes had a late surge, but it was not enough. Maryland’s third quarter gave it everything it needed and more, and it picked up a must-needed split against Ohio State.
Now winners of eight straight games, Maryland’s Big Ten title push is officially for real.
Following its loss to the Buckeyes in January, Maryland was just 12-6 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
Though Frese’s team had gone through its fair share of adversity, it felt at times that many doubters ignored that. Used to the perennial target on its back, Maryland had been completely overlooked on the national scale this season.
“That might be a great question for the girls,” said Frese on if she likes playing more under the radar. “I don’t really care, I just want to be great. I want to win. I want to beat everyone, so I don’t care where we’re at. If it helps them take the burden off, so be it.”
With eight straight wins and control of its own destiny in terms of winning the conference, the team that everyone expected this season has arrived.
Even without Owusu, the Terps found ways to win. Maryland got a vintage 21-point, 15-rebound double-double from sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese, who has been playing like an All-American all season. Reese came off the bench due to missing part of Thursday’s shootaround.
Starting in her place? None other than redshirt junior Mimi Collins, who played with tenacious effort in a 12-point showing. And even though her partner in crime was out, Miller was clutch with 18 points. It was her second straight outing with at least 15 points.
Maryland has aced parts one and two of its four-game gauntlet to end the regular season, with Michigan and Indiana waiting in the hypothetical vestibule. If the Terps win their final two games, they will be outright Big Ten champions.
“All I can say is this team was hit with a lot of adversity this year,” Frese added. “And what I’m most proud of right now is just their response. They never quit, they kept fighting. We’re still obviously down without having Ashley out there, and they’re not feeling sorry for themselves. They just continue to fight and play for one another.”