It started with a rose for each of Nebraska’s three seniors. Maryland head coach Brenda Frese then presented a bouquet to the team’s three senior managers. The last group featured for Senior Day was a quartet that has made an indelible mark in College Park.
Ahead of No. 17 Maryland’s matinee matchup with Nebraska, the team honored guard Katie Benzan, forward Chloe Bibby, guard Channise Lewis and student assistant Zoe Young. With friends and family gathered at center court, the home faithful inside Xfinity Center got to their feet to celebrate the players with a standing ovation on an afternoon that ended with an 80-65 Maryland win.
“Senior day is always a really special day all around,” Frese said. “It was so awesome to be able to have all the seniors’ families here today. I thought we honored our seniors with one of the best performances to date.”
During the first stoppage, with the hosts ahead 7-4, the customary “alumni” video where notable former players talk about having “Maryland pride” flashed over the jumbotron. The only difference Sunday was the inclusion of all four Senior Day players as a tribute.
“I just feel so blessed and lucky to play with such amazing teammates,” Benzan said. “I came in here last year, and all of [my teammates] have become my sisters. I’m just so grateful for Coach B to bring me into this family, welcoming me with big arms. I just can’t thank her and my teammates for the memories that we’ve made and the memories we’re going to make.”
Playing without its floor general, junior guard Ashley Owusu missed the game with an ankle injury, Maryland (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) needed someone to step up. Through the first 10 minutes, it was sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova. Averaging about nine minutes per game, the second-year player gave the team five hard minutes where she put up one rebound, one assist and one steal.
“She puts in so much work,” sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese said of Kozlova. “It doesn’t always come up on the scoreboard, but even when she’s on the sideline, her energy, her effort, her talking to me is always important. I’m so happy for Ty and how much she’s grown from last year.”
In a game decided early on, Maryland played one of its most complete quarters of the season in the second frame. Defensively, it held Nebraska (17-5, 6-5) scoreless for over six minutes and forced the visitors to miss 10 consecutive attempts. When the Cornhuskers finally made a shot, the Terps had a 20-point lead. In the second period, Nebraska was 2-for-15 from the field and 2-for-8 from three for just nine points.
The energy that began to build before the game reached its crescendo in the latter stages of the fourth. After a languid third quarter in which Maryland turned the ball over four times, committed four fouls and went 6-for-20 from the field, the Terps ended the contest to a rousing round of applause from the home fans as both Benzan and Bibby exited the floor in the final minute.
Against a team that came into the outing averaging 79.4 points per game, the fourth-best in the conference, Maryland had one of its most complete defensive efforts of the season. Nebraska made just 38% of their attempts from the field and 33% from three. The Terps also forced their opponents into 19 giveaways, five more than their season average.
“From the tip, Angel set the tone defensively, and then as we rotated as a team with our collective team defense was a big difference as well,” Frese said. “There were a lot of times they were trying to feed the post and we were getting early steals from the white line help and we were tying it up.”
The Terps had six players score in double figures. Bibby led the way with 21 points and zero turnovers, the fourth time she’s done so this season. Reese had a 15-point, 16-rebound double-double and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins and freshman guard Shyanne Sellers had 11 points apiece. Rounding out the double-digit scorers were Benzan and junior guard Diamond Miller, with 10 points each.
“We just want to play as a team,” Bibby said. “We always want to have our assist to turnover ratio in the positives. Obviously, Ash is a massive piece, and we missed that, but regardless of that we want to play team defense and team offense.”
Three things to know
1. With the victory against Nebraska, Maryland extended its winning streak to five. Next up for the Terps is a home meeting with Wisconsin on Wednesday before a rigorous end to the year. Maryland closes out the regular season slate with four ranked opponents in No. 21 Iowa, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan and No. 5 Indiana. Against the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Hoosiers this season, the Terps are 0-3 and have been outscored 234-201. Maryland has yet to play the Hawkeyes.
2. Maryland was without Owusu. With Owusu out of commission after twisting her ankle against Michigan State, Maryland’s defense was further depleted as junior Faith Masonius is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. In her stead, every player who took the court Sunday made a positive impact. Despite only seven players seeing time, Maryland’s stingy defense gave way to a well-balanced offense effort in a 15-point blowout victory.
“Right now we’re trying to make sure we keep our turnovers down,” Reese said. “I think that we’ve done that and even having Ashley out tonight, Shyanne stepped up. Having a big freshman like that being able to step up like that, She helped us a lot.”
3. The Terps displayed high energy and effort. Maybe it was the extra pep provided by senior day. Or it could have been the raucous crowd inside the Xfinity Center for a conference bout. Either way, from the get-go, Maryland looked like a team determined to play hard for 40 minutes and leave no doubt they were the better team. Whether it was on the court, where players picked each other up, or on the bench, where the celebrations included fist pumps and piggyback rides, Maryland brought plenty of intensity to Sunday’s affair.