No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball’s high ride of six straight victories came to a disappointing close Thursday night, as it fell just short against No. 6 Indiana in a 68-61 defeat at Assembly Hall.
In a game that had a March-like feel to it, the intensity was high early and often, but it was the Hoosiers who were able to fend off valiant punches from the Terps en route to the narrow victory at home.
Maryland was able to even the game at 50 late, thanks to a strong second half from Diamond Miller, who finished the game with 19 points after a rough start. But the Hoosiers pulled away in the fourth, as the Terps’ physicality wained and Indiana made clutch shots from beyond the arc.
“It was disappointing from our end, but there is a lot that we can improve on. A great top-10 matchup for us to be able to learn from, and again, anytime you see a negative assist to turnover ratio, we’re not sharing the basketball, we’re not trusting the process and we’ve got to be able to improve on that,” head coach Brenda Frese said.
The Terps will have a prime chance to get back in the win column Sunday afternoon against Rutgers (8-10, 2-4 Big Ten). Tipoff from the XFINITY Center is set for 1 p.m. with streaming available on Big Ten Plus.
What happened last time
These teams met less than two weeks ago, with Maryland coming in on a four-game win streak. On the other hand, the Scarlet Knights were just blown out against Penn State, extending their losing streak in conference play to three.
Things went just about as expected from the jump, with Maryland dominating the first quarter, outscoring Rutgers 24-9.
The Scarlet Knights were able to find their footing in the second quarter, bringing the lead to single digits as they ended the half on a 10-2 run.
The game looked to be slipping from the Terps just a bit as their lead was cut down to five early in the third quarter, but they emphatically responded with a 10-0 run. Frese’s squad carried that momentum through the fourth, holding a double-digit lead all the way to the final buzzer.
Senior guard Abby Meyers led the way with 22 points, and Diamond Miller took over in all facets with seven boards, four blocks, two steals and 15 points in the 78-67 victory.
“She surprises me every night with her talent and skill,” Meyers said about Miller.
Miller, a Somerset, New Jersey, native, had the entire team over to her home before the game.
“Maryland is my home away from home, so the fact that they got to see my actual home and my parents was really cool,” she said.
Miller and the Terps will look to sweep the season series against Rutgers this Sunday.
What’s happened since
It’s no secret that the Scarlet Knights are in the midst of a massive rebuild, with only eight players on their roster. Despite that, first-year head coach Coquese Washington has her team playing inspired basketball over the past two weeks.
Rutgers ranks dead last in scoring in the Big Ten, but if heart and intensity were measured, there is a general consensus that it would rank near the top in the nation. It’s pulled off two straight victories, putting forth defensive masterclasses in both matchups. After allowing 78 points to the Terps, it allowed a combined 104 points to Nebraska and Minnesota.
As a reminder, Nebraska and Minnesota put up 90 and 85 points, respectively, in their matchups against Maryland.
On Jan. 7, the Scarlet Knights, who are 7-4 at home this season, won 57-45 over the Cornhuskers. Rutgers never trailed in the game after surrendering just five first-quarter points. Freshman guard Kaylene Smikle, who has been a bright spot on offense for Rutgers, led all scorers with 20 points.
The Farmingdale, New York, product followed it up this past Thursday with another 20-point performance, also adding 10 rebounds in a thrilling 64-59 victory over a struggling Minnesota team that has lost five games in a row.
The Scarlet Knights will look to continue their winning spell with a chance at redemption against the Terps, who handed them their last loss. Maryland is looking to bounce back from its first loss in over a month.
Three things to watch
1. If Maryland contains Kaylene Smikle, it should win. Rutgers’ offense is one-dimensional, that one dimension being Smikle. In the conference’s worst scoring offense, Smikle has been sensational. She’s rattled off three straight 20-point games and had 29 points in the team’s meeting with the Terps. Her 16.9 points per game are six more than the team’s second-leading scorer. If Maryland’s defense suffocates her on Sunday, it will be a long day for the Scarlet Knights.
2. The Terps were unhappy with their last performance. How will they respond? A team of shot-makers was abysmal from the field against Indiana, shooting 21-of-57. Shyanne Sellers and Abby Meyers, who had been shooting very well lately, went a combined 7-of-22 from the floor.
“I thought we got some some good looks. There were uncharacteristic shots that weren’t going down,” Frese said after the loss.
While Rutgers’ defense may not equal that of Indiana’s, it has been stellar lately. Maryland shot 40% from three when it last faced Rutgers and would like to at least equal that after a poor shooting display in its last game.
3. Seven in a row? Maryland has taken the past six meetings against Rutgers and 13 of the 15 meetings all-time. The Terps are 6-1 in College Park, with five of those wins coming by more than 10 points. After winning two weeks ago in Piscataway, New Jersey, the Terps will look to take both of this year’s games and make it seven victories in a row against the Scarlet Knights.