Maryland women’s basketball kicked off a two-game road trip on the right foot Thursday night, defeating Wisconsin, 77-64, for its eighth win in its past nine games.
Behind an explosive first half from sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers and a dominant second half by senior guard Diamond Miller, the Terps held off a Wisconsin group that fought hard all night long.
The Terps did not trail the entire game, holding a double-digit lead for the last 34:48 of the contest.
Let’s take a look at some takeaways from the victory.
A strong first quarter overshadowed a rather even game.
From the tip, Maryland took advantage of the Big Ten’s worst scoring defense, getting out to a double-digit lead not even halfway through the opening quarter.
As the lead extended to 14, Maryland’s press began to really disrupt Wisconsin’s flow, forcing six turnovers in the frame.
“I thought we came out from the tip and we really set the tone,” head coach Brenda Frese said.
Up 13 points after 10 minutes, Maryland’s game fell to the level of Wisconsin’s for the remaining 30. Although the Badgers failed to bring the game back to single digits, they never let the game get out of hand. The Terps only outscored them 14-12 in the second quarter, keeping the game well within reach headed into the halftime break.
Wisconsin outscored Maryland by two points in the second half, which Frese was not pleased with.
“We’re disappointed in our second half. But Wisconsin’s a team like anyone else in the league. They’re going to continue to play for 40 minutes so I thought they had a better second half than us and that’s an area that we’ve got to continue to improve in,” she said.
Over the past four games, the Terps have let first-quarter leads slip before seeing a very evenly played second half.
“Obviously like that stat, 28-15 [after the first quarter]. You know, now we’re trying to put it across the board for 40 minutes,” Frese said.
Shyanne Sellers continued to establish herself as one of the best two-way guards in the conference.
The breakout year for Sellers continued Thursday night, as the sophomore rattled off 21 points, tying her career high. She was on fire early, scoring 13 points in the first quarter.
“They didn’t have an answer for her,” Frese said when asked about Sellers’ quick start.
Sellers has now scored in double digits of 16 of 19 games this season, but it’s her defensive play that is possibly having a bigger impact. She’s recorded multiple steals in three straight games and has been a force on the boards as well.
The guard led the team with seven rebounds Thursday to go along with a block. Alongside Miller, Sellers is the main component of Maryland’s tireless press, which forced 20 Wisconsin turnovers.
“I’m just happy to have be able to come out and help my team get the win,” Sellers said.
When things got shaky, Diamond Miller stepped up.
Elite players aren’t elite just because of the plays they make, but also when they make them.
For someone that’s averaging close to 19 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 takeaways per game, Miller has not thrived in the early parts of a lot of games this season. That was the case Thursday night, as the probable top-five WNBA draft pick shot just 1-for-5 from the field in the first half.
But as Miller has time and time again, she stepped up when needed.
As Wisconsin started to knock down some threes in the second quarter, Miller responded. She finished with 16 points in the half on 5-of-8 shooting.
Despite her impressive second half to secure the win, Frese is looking for a more consistent effort from her star.
“I still think Diamond can play better defense. That’s an area where if she’s having a slow start, it hurts,” Frese said. “She’s obviously taking so many of the double-teams and collapses around her. We need minutes on both ends of the floor from her, but I thought she she was good in the second half. I thought she was more intentional in getting to the free-throw line and drawing fouls so she was able to get in a rhythm.”