An hour before tipoff Monday afternoon, Maryland women’s basketball moved up three spots to No. 16 in the AP poll. Riding a four-game win streak — with two Big Ten wins in the streak — the Terps made no mistake as they cruised to a 78-67 victory in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Behind 22 points from senior guard Abby Meyers and an all-around dominant showing from Diamond Miller, Maryland used strong first and third quarters to pull off its fifth win in a row.
“For us as a team, we’ve played in so many close games that we understand it’s a game of runs. With the experience of the veteran-led roster that we have, they don’t ever flinch. I love that about our mentality. We just dial back in a little stronger and we understand how talented we are,” head coach Brenda Frese said.
The Terps will return home for a matinee showing this Saturday against Michigan State.
Here are three takeaways from Monday’s win.
A happy homecoming.
Miller, a Somerset, New Jersey, native, grew up just seven miles from Rutgers’ campus. This past weekend, her family hosted the entire team for a New Year’s celebration.
“It was great to have everybody at my house,” Miller said. “Maryland is my home away from home, so the fact that they got to my actual home and my parents was really cool. To be home is always a good thing.”
After struggling from the tip, starting 1-for-8 from the field, Miller started to catch fire in front of family and friends.
“The first half wasn’t my best and I knew I could do other things like rebound and stuff. So that’s what I tried to do in the second half and it helped me get my mojo,” Miller added.
The senior guard was phenomenal in bringing the energy on the defensive side of the ball especially, finishing with two blocks, four steals and seven rebounds.
She got better throughout, scoring 13 of her 15 points in the second half as the Terps started to pull away.
“She surprises me every night with her talent and skill. It’s still early in the in the season in conference play and I’m excited for what she’s going to continue do,” Meyers said.
Miller reached 1,291 points in her Maryland career Monday, tying her with Lisa Brown for the 27th-most points in program history.
A positive sign in turnover differential.
Though the Terps’ motto is to play as fast as possible with a demanding press, teams had been finding ways earlier in the season to break the press and exploit the Terps’ need for speed by making them play too fast, giving up the ball with ease.
When asked how the team’s fast-paced play has shown improvements throughout the season, Frese said, “It’s been huge when you look at defensively what we’re able to do in turning teams over — using our speed, our athleticism and our length. It’s an important piece of who we are.”
In its last game against Minnesota, Maryland won the takeaway battle by 17 and forced 22 turnovers while committing just 10 against the Scarlet Knights.
Over Maryland’s past two games, it has scored 53 points off turnovers while securing 25 offensive rebounds.
“So, you know, just again, when you look at our 22 assists and you know, only 10 turnovers, we’re valuing the basketball,” Frese added. “Good things are gonna happen because we have so many dynamic scorers on this team.”
The Terps now have the third-best turnover differential in the Big Ten, which is a very welcoming sight as conference play heats up.
Lavender Briggs stayed hot.
It was just two weeks ago when Frese called out the Florida transfer, saying “Lav needs to be better.”
Last season, she averaged 19.5 points per game with the Gators. The senior guard’s early-season struggles have been well-documented, scoring in double digits just once in Maryland’s opening 12 games.
Against Minnesota, Briggs had her best game as a Terp, recording 15 points, five boards, two assists and a steal.
“If we want to go as far as we want to go, we have to have Lav,” Frese said after the win against the Gophers.
Well, they had Briggs Monday, as she netted double-digit points for the second consecutive game to go along with eight rebounds, three of those on the offensive end.
With tough conference games on tap in the next few weeks, Frese acknowledged that having Briggs at the top of her game is important.
“She’s playing with a ton of confidence on both ends of the floor. She’s a dynamic scorer that we need to be able to have,” Frese said. “This is who we recruited and I love being able to see it kind of rounding into form at the right time here in conference play.”