INDIANAPOLIS — In the rubber match of their three-game series, fifth-seeded Indiana got the best of fourth-seeded Maryland women’s basketball, defeating the Terps, 62-51.
“Obviously extremely disappointed in the loss,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean, this is a feeling for us that we’re not used to, but I think it shows you just how tremendous the league has been all season long.”
Maryland stumbled out of the gates, getting off to a poor shooting start. It trailed at the end of one quarter, 18-13, and was never able to recover from that deficit. The Terps shot only 31% from the field and could not find their footing all game long.
Friday’s loss marked Maryland’s first loss in its opening round of a conference tournament since losing to North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on March 7, 2014. It was also the only time since entering the Big Ten that Maryland did not reach the tournament’s championship game.
Let’s dive into three takeaways from Maryland’s loss.
Maryland struggled immensely on the offensive end in the first half, setting the tone for a rough shooting night.
The Terps found themselves on the wrong side of a 34-25 halftime score, and a lot of that was due to their offensive struggles.
“All the credit goes to Indiana,” Frese said. “I thought they were the tougher team. They punched first, they never looked back. They played extremely hard, I thought, for all 40 minutes...Really, really impressed. Can’t say enough about their game plan.”
After 20 minutes, Maryland was only shooting at a 31% clip, and there was another important element missing from its offense.
Maryland had some open looks from deep, but it could not hit any of its six first-half 3-point attempts. It was an uncharacteristic showing from a squad that ranked third in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage heading into Friday’s game.
Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese was active down low with eight points and seven rebounds in the first half, but she was just 3-of-9 from the field.
Junior guard Ashley Owusu made her return to the Maryland lineup — she missed four straight games with a sprained ankle and then missed the regular season finale with an illness — and looked decently explosive early. She had seven first-half points, but she was still looking to get her legs back underneath her.
“Just from a personal standpoint, I’m happy to be back, happy to be out with my team,” said Owusu on how she is feeling.
As far as the rest of the lineup went in the first 20 minutes, graduate student guard Katie Benzan and junior guard Diamond Miller each did not record a single first-half point. Freshman guard Shyanne Sellers had four points, while redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins added two.
Foul trouble was also an issue for Maryland in the first half; Sellers and Owusu each had two fouls by the break.
Maryland got off to a fast start in the second meeting between the teams on Feb. 25, leading 19-10 after one quarter, but Indiana flipped that switch Friday.
Three-point shooting haunted the Terps throughout Friday’s game.
Getting the triple to touch the nylon was not just a first-half problem for the Terps.
Maryland shot 0-of-12 from 3-point range, marking the first time Maryland did not hit a triple since its NCAA Tournament second round loss at NC State on March 18, 2018.
“I just think we didn’t shoot the ball as well from the 3-point line, and I don’t think that’s like us,” Owusu said.
Indiana’s defense completely stymied Maryland’s offense, holding it to its second-lowest scoring output of the season. Maryland had open looks that did not fall, but Indiana’s feisty defense must be credited.
The Hoosiers did not dominate from 3-point land — they only made two of their seven 3 point attempts — but not allowing Maryland to excel in an area that is usually important to its success made a difference.
Benzan, who led the nation last year with a 50% 3-point shooting clip and shot 43.5% this season, was a non-factor offensively Friday. She only took two shots from deep, both of which came in the final 40 seconds, and five shots in total.
“I don’t think she was passing up shot, I think she just didn't have a lot of open looks,” said Frese on Benzan’s day. “I mean, she’s a patient player. She’s not gonna just take shots to force bad shots...Obviously people have scouted her, they’ve done a really nice job sticking to her and making it tough for her to get shots off and using their length.”
It was a rare off night for Maryland, which had previously never hit fewer than three 3-pointers in a game this season.
Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese combined for 35 points, but their supporting cast generated little.
Coming back from the absence, it was unclear how Owusu would perform. It was not a vintage Owusu game, but the Terps star floor general scored a game-high 21 points in her return.
Reese, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, had a strong outing with 14 points and 13 points for her third double-double in three games against Indiana this season. Still, it was not the type of performance that landed her on the All-Big Ten First Team, and she was unable to get in a consistent groove.
Five players saw the court outside of Reese and Owusu, combining for just eight field goals and 16 points.
Sellers, Miller, Bibby and Collins each scored four points apiece. Benzan could not get on the scoresheet. The five of them combined to shoot only 19% from the field.
“I think it all comes from our defense, getting stops and running in transition, and we just didn’t have that flowing [to] our offense,” Bibby said. “...And then from that, we were driving the lane with four people, and we didn’t find the open person. So that’s things that we have to go back, and we’ve got to work on and look forward to when we go into the NCAA’s.”
While the 3-point shooting did not represent a typical Maryland performance, neither did the strength of its all-around output. Maryland has had several games where the word “balance” could be used to describe how many players exploded on the offensive end, but Friday was not one of them.
The question now arises of whether or not Maryland will secure a top-16 seed and a host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee’s latest reveal had Maryland slotted as a No. 3 seed, and Friday’s loss to Indiana has been its only game since then.
It appears the Terps have done enough throughout the entire season to put themselves in such a spot, but that remains to be seen. The official NCAA Tournament bracket will be finalized nine days from now, and Maryland will have at least two weeks off.