No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball hosted Penn State in a potential trap game with multiple ranked matchups impending.
Maryland senior guard Abby Meyers quickly ended her shooting slump with a season-high 24 points as the Terps demolished Penn State, 87-66, on Monday night for their fifth consecutive victory at XFINITY Center and 11th win in their last 12 games.
“I play my role and keep it simple. That’s it really and bring the energy, so that’s why I kept telling myself don’t don’t overthink it,” Meyers said. “You’re gonna have a lot of different games in the season where there are ups and downs, but for me as a leader, being aggressive on defense and having that control on the defensive end when my offense may not be rolling. Just have fun, keep it simple and play a role.”
The Terps (18-4) picked up their ninth Big Ten victory and remained third in the conference standings. With successful showings in its next few games, Maryland can set its sights on the top seed heading into the conference tournament.
Maryland and Penn State both looked to establish an early rhythm, and after relinquishing the opening points, the Terps’ defense began to inject life into their electric offense.
Just a few minutes into the first quarter and holding a 4-2 lead, Maryland sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers jumped the passing lane and collected a steal heading the other way. Sellers drove the length of the floor and finished a layup in the paint to extend their lead.
Maryland forced eight turnovers in the quarter as its elite perimeter defender began to make its presence felt by forcing the Nittany Lions into mistakes time after time.
One of the brightest spots of the opening 10 minutes of action was the play of Meyers, who scored 11 points in the quarter to set the tone for the Terps’ offense. The senior guard was aggressive and looked to establish her scoring punch from the first dribble, also drilling a jump shot with under a minute remaining in the period to cap off a 20-2 Maryland run.
“I thought our first half [was strong] especially in the first quarter. We just got after it defensively and turned the turnovers into points,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “Being able to force eight turnovers in the first quarter really set the tone and we were able to get out in transition and make plays for each other.”
Early in the second quarter, though, Maryland fans gasped for air when star senior guard Diamond Miller exited the game with an undisclosed injury and had to make her way to the locker room for an evaluation. To the relief of the Terps and their fans, Miller returned to action not long after and instantly drained two free throws. She finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes played.
Maryland’s offense looked to continue to find success in the second quarter by moving the ball quickly for favorable scoring opportunities, but could only muster 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting to go along with seven turnovers committed.
When the offense sputtered, though, Maryland’s defense rose to the occasion, allowing just nine points in the second quarter — the same number it allowed in the first.
With under 10 seconds until intermission, Meyers continued her hot start by drilling her second 3-pointer of the game, giving her 16 first-half points. Maryland continued to punish Penn State, taking a 41-18 lead into the half. The Nittany Lions’ meager first-half scoring total marked their lowest of the season.
While the Terps’ lead was never in jeopardy, Penn State found offensive success in the third quarter, blowing its first-half scoring total out of the water in the third quarter alone with a 31-point showing in the period. The Nittany Lions went 11-of-15 from the field and 3-of-4 from three, but were unable to make major inroads in their deficit because of a strong 25-point quarter from the Terps.
The fourth quarter didn’t alter the outcome, as Maryland outscored Penn State 21-17 to extend its comfortable cushion and coast to victory.
Maryland will travel to the Midwest for its next game on Thursday — a top-10 showdown with No. 6 Iowa. That game promises to be crucial for determining the Terps’ Big Ten Tournament seeding.
Three things to know
1. Maryland made it five wins in a row. Maryland took care of business with a dominant victory over Penn State, marking its fifth consecutive win and keeping it within striking distance of the top spot in the Big Ten. Maryland has won 11 of its last 12 games, having won six in a row before falling at Indiana on Jan. 12.
2. Abby Meyers recaptured her early-season rhythm. For the first few games of the season, Meyers’ scoring ability gave a glimpse into why she enjoyed a decorated career at Princeton. She scored in double figures in eight games to start the season and had been solidifying a formidable duo with Miller. Over her previous five games, however, Meyers had struggled to score, evidenced by a 17-for-53 showing from the field and a 5-for-19 performance from behind the arc.
Monday night proved to be a different story, as Meyers’ aggressiveness began to pay off. The Terps guard looked confident from the initial bounce and her performance solidified that. She recorded 24 points, with 16 in the first half. Maryland will need Meyers to continue scoring in bunches with some high-profile matchups to come soon.
3. The Terps hit the road for a top-10 showdown with Iowa next. Maryland is 8-1 away from XFINITY Center this season with notable victories over Baylor and Notre Dame. The Terps will have to back that road record up soon when they head to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a clash with Caitlin Clark and No. 6 Iowa. Clark, an All-American guard, creates an array of problems for defenses with her scoring and playmaking abilities. Maryland will have its hands full on Thursday, but it has proven that it can play well in primetime matchups.