In its final regular-season game, No. 13 Maryland bested visiting No. 10 Indiana, 67-64. The Terps finish the year with a 21-7, 13-4 Big Ten record and boast an impressive 14-1 home tally; the only loss at Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland, came against No. 6 Michigan.
“This game is going to be one we will always remember — a really special win,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “It really kind of sums up our season. I thought we set the tone early with our defense and with our rebounding and really taking care of the basketball.”
With a 13-4 conference record, Maryland is guaranteed a double-bye in the conference tournament, which means it will play its first postseason match on Friday. With junior guard Ashley Owusu out with illness and sophomore forward Taisiya Kozlova back in Russia to be with family, the extra rest days will benefit a shorthanded Terps team.
Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese, who left the court in the third quarter after a nasty collision, led Maryland with 20 points and 16 rebounds. In the fourth quarter, the Baltimore, Maryland native returned with a bandage on her nose. Junior forward Diamond Miller put up 16 points, freshman guard Shyanne Sellers had 12 and graduate guard Katie Benzan contributed 10 points and six assists.
After looking like a lock to win the Big Ten regular season a couple of weeks ago, Indiana (19-7, 11-5) completely fell apart down the stretch. The Hoosiers had five games in the past 11 days and went 1-4, with losses to Nebraska, No. 21 Iowa (twice) and Maryland. It’s a disappointing end to what started as a promising season, but with time to rest and get healthy — junior forward Mackenzie Holmes is still working her way back from injury — Indiana will be one of the favorites to win the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re disappointed,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve done this the last couple of games, and we’re not about moral victories, so this is another very disappointing loss for us.”
Senior guard Grace Berger led the Hoosiers with 16 points and 10 rebounds and graduate guard Ali Patberg had 13. Most impressive about Maryland’s lockdown defensive performance was that it held Holmes, who averages 16.4 points a night, to just 11 Friday evening.
Here are several takeaways from Friday’s win.
Maryland’s red-out crowd deemed the team’s “sixth man” by Brenda Frese.
Under the veil of a red out at Xfinity Center, Maryland again played a thrilling affair with Indiana; the first time these two sides met, the Hoosiers won by seven in a match that required overtime. The red was rocking in the stands from tip-off, and the Terps rewarded the Maryland faithful with an entertaining back-and-forth contest with a formidable Indiana side.
After Hoosiers three cut the lead to one with 35 seconds remaining, overtime looked possible. But with the game on the line, Benzan hit a floater to ice the match.
“I knew [Nicole] Cardaño-Hillary had been reaching all night, so I knew that was coming,” Benzan said of the final drive of the contest. “I knew that after she reached the next decision was reading the help, so then I just read the defense and floated it right up and luckily it went in.”
Interviewed at half court following the final whistle, graduate forward Chloe Bibby thanked the crowd for the support, for which she received a thunderous round of applause. And in the postgame media session, Frese again thanked the home faithful.
“I can’t thank our crowd enough tonight for being our sixth man,” Frese said. “We talked about it before the game; what an empty feeling last year was not playing in front of fans, and we really wanted to feed off their energy, and they brought all of that tonight.”
It was a consistent outing from the field for Maryland — the team matched its average of 44% from inside for the season — but where it really shined was from three.
The home side made seven of its 15 looks from behind the arc. Benzan and Sellers both went 2-for-3 from deep as they added a combined for a total of 22 points. Miller took the most shots from beyond the arc on the team, hitting two of her five attempts. At one point in the first half, the home team had made six of its eight attempts from deep.
Maryland’s 3-point percentage (47%) was actually greater than its overall shooting percentage as a team (44%). Just one of the Terps’ makes from three came in the second half, when Miller drained a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Frese’s team went just 1-for-7 from deep in the final two quarters.
Still, Maryland is a tough team to beat on its home court when it shoots nearly 50% from long range over the course of 40 minutes.
Lack of free throws.
Going into Friday night, Maryland averaged 14.4 free-throw attempts per game. But against Indiana, the Terps only got to the line six times. Overall, the officials let both teams play through a good deal of contact and missed what seemed to be several blatant fouls.
Any team will miss Owusu, but Maryland primarily missed its point guard at the line. The Virginia native has a knack for driving through contact and getting opposition defenders to foul, which contributes to her 4.6 free-throw tries per game. Reese went 2-for-4 from the charity stripe and Miller was a perfect 2-for-2.
“I thought we should have been able to get to the free-throw line a little bit more,” Frese said. “[We] were kind of finishing through some of that contact and being aggressive, but when different things aren’t working, you got to find other ways. I thought we were able to do that with our defense, rebounding and valuing in the basketball.”