No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball extended its win streak to five Sunday, defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 80-65.
It was senior day at the Xfinity Center, and four of Maryland’s women were honored. Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby, graduate student guard Katie Benzan, graduate student guard Channise Lewis and redshirt sophomore student assistant Zoe Young all received a tremendous reception pregame.
“I thought we honored our seniors with one of the best performances to date,” head coach Brenda Frese said.
“I’m just so grateful for Coach B to bring me into this family, welcoming me with big arms,” Benzan added. “And I just can’t thank her and my teammates for the memories that we’ve made and for the rest of the season and the memories we’re going to make.”
Junior guard Ashley Owusu was ruled out Sunday with an ankle injury she suffered against Michigan State. Owusu is currently considered day-to-day and was wearing a boot on her right foot.
The Terps put on a show, never trailing at any point against the Huskers. It was undoubtedly one of Maryland’s most complete performances of the season.
Let’s dive into some takeaways from the victory.
A fast start for Maryland.
Energy and effort have been two common themes for the Terps this season. If both are high, the results are probably rewarding.
Maryland was able to race out of the gates because of those two qualities, and it never looked back.
“We were ready to play from the tip,” Frese said. “Energy and effort on both ends of the floor, and I thought we played with a lot of great poise and confidence.”
Demonstrating all the tools of what could be an elite basketball team, the Terps held a 24-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Junior guard Diamond Miller had eight first-quarter points, while graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins each had seven.
With Owusu out, Frese would dabble with extending her rotation to seven players by adding sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova. Kozlova gave the Terps great early playing time, finishing a +7 in five first-quarter minutes.
The Terps also only turned the ball over once and forced six Nebraska giveaways in the first 10 minutes, turning them into 12 points. Throw in seven assists and nine made field goals, and the first quarter went as well as it possibly could for Maryland.
“We did not get off to a great start,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said, “and credit to Maryland’s defense. They had us out of sorts, and we were unable to establish some presence in the paint that we’ve been able to do for most of the season this year and we had way too many turnovers.”
The Terps turned a strong first frame into a solidified first half, holding a 43-20 grip on the game at halftime. Nebraska’s 20 points were its lowest point total of any half this season, per Maryland women’s basketball’s Twitter.
“Nebraska is a really good team,” Frese said. “For us to hold them to 20 points in the first half and play the way we did defensively, this is a great momentum for us right now, to continue to kind of build on these games.”
Bibby shines on senior day.
With her parents still in town from Australia, part of the reason Maryland’s senior day was in early February was so Bibby could be honored with them.
Surely, she did not disappoint.
Bibby led all scorers with 21 points, her fifth game with at least 15 points in Maryland’s last eight games. She bounced back from a 1-of-5 shooting night at Michigan State to continue playing her best basketball of the season.
When Bibby explodes on the offensive end it provides another dangerous inside-out option for the Terps and a much-needed one with Owusu not on the floor.
“She’s a matchup nightmare,” Frese said. “The fact that her versatility, obviously to stretch the floor for us and pick and pop. But then, just her toughness, right. When she goes inside and out and off the bounce and getting on the glass, so I think she’s a really difficult matchup.”
Bibby shot 6-of-17 from the field, and three of those field goals were triples. She was also smooth from the charity stripe, draining six of her seven free-throw attempts.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Bibby’s performance was her zero turnovers, a mark she achieved for the fourth time this season and the second time in the last four games.
Maryland is 13-2 when Bibby scores at least 10 points, a sign of success for both her and the team.
Maryland is on a hot streak, and Sunday’s win should not be undervalued.
Getting a win against Nebraska without its “floor general” in Owusu would be a tough task for Maryland. Dominating its opposition makes it that much more impressive.
Nebraska did not have a number next to its name heading into its game against the Terps, but the Huskers were valued highly by some considerable metrics. Nebraska checked in at 16th in the all-important NET rankings Sunday morning, four spots ahead of Maryland. The Huskers are also a seven-seed in ESPN’s latest Bracketology and defeated Michigan by 21 earlier in the season, a team that the Terps lost to by 20 at home.
The Huskers never found themselves in a spot to compete on Sunday. Credit must be given to Maryland for turning what could have been a tricky task into a total blowout.
The Terps already had experience playing shorthanded against great competition earlier in the season, facing three top-10 opponents without Miller, Benzan and Masonius in November. Maryland also fell to No. 1 South Carolina by only seven points without Miller.
Frese’s squad still is not fully healthy, and it can only be considered relatively so for the rest of the season. Junior forward/guard Faith Masonius tore her ACL on Jan. 2 at Indiana, an injury that ended her season. Masonius’ injury effectively shrunk Maryland’s rotation to just seven players, and Owusu’s ankle injury made it just six.
If Maryland can continue to get positive minutes from Kozlova for however long Owusu is out, it could be beneficial for the overall depth of the roster come March. As this season has shown, adversity can happen at any time, and everyone must be ready when their number is called upon.
“A lot of people don’t see her hard work, but she puts in so much work,” said sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese of Kozlova. “Her coming back this summer and seeing how much work and how much better she’s gotten, it’s just amazing. Having her as a sophomore, of course, I talk to her a lot and like having her out there and just being able to show what she can do. Her coming in making those big shots, getting those big rebounds, getting those sick steals, she just does everything.”
For now, Maryland has won five games in a row with another very winnable game upcoming against Wisconsin at home on Wednesday night. After that, the Terps will face a four-game stretch against ranked opponents to end the regular season.
Maryland may not have its full roster, but the results are beginning to string into extended success. A dominant triumph over Nebraska should not be overlooked, as Maryland is once again starting to resemble the team that many thought they would be in the preseason.
“The end goal is the national championship,” Reese said. “Starting in the end of February by winning the Big Ten and then moving on to bigger things. Winning six games in March is really important. So right now, we’re focusing on February frenzy that we’re doing right now and then we’ll figure it out in March and get everything done.”