Boosted by an offensive explosion, No. 4-seed Maryland women’s basketball hurt No. 13-seed Delaware in plenty of different ways Friday evening.
With about four minutes to play in the third quarter, sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese had possession at the top of the key. Reese — who only made one three on the season and missed one earlier attempt on the day — held the ball as the coaching staff urged her not to shoot. She was phenomenal on the interior, as the rest of her team was, and decided to give the ball up.
“We agreed to disagree whether she should take the three,” a laughing head coach Brenda Frese said.
The Maryland bench broke into laughter after the pause, and the play ended with a layup by graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby that gave Maryland a 67-46 lead.
Maryland’s 50-32 points in the paint advantage were only a part of its offensive arsenal in its 102-71 first-round victory over the Blue Hens.
“That was Maryland basketball,” Frese said. “That was a lot of fun. I think you saw, sitting on the last two weeks, we were more than prepared and more than ready to come out with such a competitive group.”
Friday was Maryland’s first game in two weeks and only its second game in three weeks. Constantly dealing with injuries and illnesses, the layoff helped head coach Brenda Frese’s team hit “the healthiest point” it has reached all season.
Playing in front of its home crowd, Maryland came roaring out of the gates. The Terps had a clear emphasis to pound the ball inside, and sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese would see the benefits of that coming to fruition. Maryland held a 19-11 lead at the first media timeout, and Reese had a quick eight points. Twelve of the Terps’ first 19 points were in the paint, setting the tone for an offensive attack that would be difficult to contain.
Delaware countered with early full-court pressure, but Maryland mostly did not have many problems with it. The Terps were electric in transition and dominated the key to end the first quarter. Maryland owned a 27-17 lead and an 18-8 points in the paint advantage through one quarter of play.
“Well the biggest thing was and that was one of the goals, to try to limit their paint points, and their paint points could come in post-ups or lane drives,” Blue Hens head coach Natasha Adair said. “...So we wanted to contain, obviously, and kind of corral the ball and try to limit them in the paint areas. But like the players said, they were bigger in some areas.”
The Terps continued to thrive in transition in the second quarter. A beautiful drop-off by Reese with about seven minutes to play in the half and a behind-the-back dish by Sellers fewer than two minutes later highlighted Maryland’s fast-break success. Both passes resulted in Miller layups, and Maryland’s lead hovered around 10 points throughout the second frame.
Graduate student guard Katie Benzan heated up in the second quarter with four three-pointers, but Maryland could not pull away due to senior guard/forward Jasmine Dickey’s superstar play. The AP All-America Honorable Mention scored 14 second-quarter points to lead all scorers with 18 points at halftime.
“Honestly, I just read what the defense gave me,” Benzan said. “And in the Big Ten when you play people multiple times, the scouting report is out, and so playing Delaware the first time, that’s a little bit different in that sense. But just reading what the defense gave me, my teammates found me when I was open and the ball went in really.”
Dickey, the nation’s third-leading scorer, showed why she is one of the nation’s premier player. The Baltimore native kept the Blue Hens close, as Maryland went into the locker room with a 49-39 edge.
The third quarter's opening minutes would be crucial in whether Maryland pulled away or Delaware kept it close. The Terps chose the former option.
Back-to-back triples by Benzan and Bibby and an 0-of-5 Delaware start to the half prompted Adair to burn a timeout just two minutes into the quarter. Maryland was ahead, 55-39, and it was potentially danger time for Delaware.
Dickey scored Delaware’s next seven points out of the timeout, but the Blue Hens just did not get enough out of their supporting cast.
Dickey had 27 points by the end of the third quarter, but Maryland now had the game safely tucked away. The Terps led 80-56 through three quarters after winning the third period by 14 points. Four Terps scored at least 14 points in the first 30 minutes.
Not much changed to start the final quarter. A 7-0 Maryland run capped off by a Bibby banked-in three propelled it to a game-high 31-point lead with about nine minutes to play. Bibby could only laugh it off. It was that type of day for the Terps.
Maryland outscored the Blue Hens, 20-12, in fast-break points and posted an incredible 19-to-11 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Dickey shined with 31 points in her last collegiate game, but none of her points were a threat to Maryland’s eclectic offensive display.
“She's definitely one of the top players that I have guarded this year,” Miller said of Dickey. “She’s very talented. Her pull-up is lethal. You can’t stop her, really. We just tried to contain her as best as we could today.”
Three things to know
1. Points in the paint advantage. Delaware only has four players listed at six feet or taller, with its tallest player being graduate student forward Lizzie Oleary at 6-foot-2. The Terps, with one of the nation’s best bigs in Reese, recognized this early. Maryland fed Reese often, but it was not just her play that gave Maryland a lift. The Terps were sensational on the open floor, and Owusu and Miller recorded their fair share of paint points.
“It’s really been an emphasis these last couple weeks just having an inside-outside presence,” Frese said. “Angel is such a tremendous presence down low, but she’s also a tremendous passer. Just being able to go inside, then being able to kick it outside to the hot hand. But definitely wanted to, I knew they didn’t have a lot of depth inside, so we wanted to go at that early.”
2. All-around scoring makes Maryland great. Each player in the Terps’ seven-player rotation has earned some sort of All-Big Ten honor either this season or last. Maryland can have a different player erupt on any given night, which is part of what makes its ceiling so high. On Friday, five Maryland players scored in double-digits. Delaware just had no answer for the Terps.
3. Part one of “The Mission” complete. “Complete the Mission” has been the mantra Maryland has taken on this season. Maryland had national championship aspirations last season, but an upset loss to Texas in the Sweet 16 halted them. Its mission this year would be to bounce back from that en route to a more fortuitous run in 2022. Maryland will face No. 12-seed Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday, with the winner going to this year’s Round of 16. A blowout win over Delaware is only one part of a puzzle with gargantuan pieces ahead, but it is an emphatic start for what may come.