How does No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball follow up on one of its best games of the season? By facing a Rutgers team who was winless in Big Ten play entering Monday and unleashing many of its offensive weapons in what was a homecoming for some of its players.
Maryland’s Diamond Miller and Faith Masonius are both from New Jersey. Abby Meyers — who is from Maryland but spent her undergraduate college career at Princeton University drilling 3-pointers abound 40 minutes south of Jersey Mike’s Arena — had the best scoring day for the Terps in its 78-67 win. The No. 13 Terps improved to 12-3 and got their third Big Ten victory while Rutgers is still searching for its first.
Meyers is shooting a career-high 40% from 3-point range this season and finished with 22 points Monday afternoon, including 13 in the first quarter in what was an overall fluid offensive quarter for the Terps.
It continued a positive trend for Maryland, which has won its last five games by an average of 16 points.
Meyers was held to two points in the second quarter as Rutgers flexed some of its offensive power. Even though Maryland’s defense created a quick pace during the first half and kept the Scarlet Knights on its toes running back in transition. Rutgers responded on offense by outscoring Maryland 24-16 in the second quarter and ending the half on a 10-2 run.
Maryland led by 18 points in the first half and Rutgers’ offensive run into the third quarter cut the lead down to five.
How did it respond? With a 10-0 run spanning 2:35 pushing the lead back to 15 points and regaining a command of this game.
“We’ve played in so many close games that we understand it's a game of runs and the experienced veteran-led roster that we have, they don’t even flinch,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I love that our mentality is we just dial back in a little stronger and we understand how talented we are.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland applied early pressure. Maryland exploited Rutgers’ offensive attack in every way possible in the opening quarter. The Scarlet Knights had only attempted six field goals through the first 7:46 and committed 10 turnovers. Maryland unleashed its 2-1-2 zone press defense from the first few possessions and continued that throughout. Other turnovers were committed by poor Rutgers passing.
2. It’s about how you finish. Diamond Miller started this game 1-for-8 from the field. She struggled to hit shots in the early going but in the third quarter she flourished, ending the frame with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. One sequence included Miller fighting off three Rutgers defenders using just her pivot foot to get a layup showing her composure in the post and footwork. Her fourth quarter started with a smooth behind the back dribble and falling layup with her left hand.
Meyers told Miller during a timeout in the fourth quarter that her layup was one of the most impressive she’s ever seen this year.
“Diamond is such a competitor no matter what happens,” Meyers said. “... She surprises me every night with her talent and skill and still early in conference play and I’m excited (to see) what she’s gonna do.”
3. Lavender Briggs had a day. When Lavender Briggs started the season, she struggled to be the player she was at the University of Florida. She has come into her own over the last two games and ended the contest against Rutgers. When Maryland had a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter, Briggs knocked down a 3-pointer to extend the lead and keep Maryland’s offense flowing.
Frese said earlier in the season after a loss, “We need Lavender,” and today they got her as she scored 10 points and had eight rebounds. This is the version of Briggs Frese hoped to see.
“She’s playing with a ton of confidence on both ends of the floor,” Frese said. “She’s a dynamic scorer that we need to be able to have and this is who we recruited and I love being able to see it rounding to form at the right time here in conference play.”