Maryland women’s basketball’s early-season struggles were on full display early against Green Bay. The team failed to make a 3-pointer in the first half, and the Phoenix led by as much as eight in the second quarter.
But just when it looked like the Terps would sink back into recent patterns and throw the game away, they hung around.
By keeping it close, Maryland put itself within striking position. So when the Phoenix shot 27.8% from the field in the third quarter, the Terps’ high-end talent could take over the game.
That’s exactly what they did. Fueled by 42 combined points from guards Shyanne Sellers and Bri McDaniel, Maryland won, 68-59, on Friday in its second game at the Cancun Challenge.
It wasn’t a pretty performance for Maryland, with the team only making a single 3-point shot in the contest. But the Terps were able to make Green Bay play their game in the second half.
Maryland’s 2-3 zone defense prevented looks around the arc for the Phoenix. The scheme limited the Phoenix to just 1-of-15 shooting from three in the latter 20 minutes.
“It was working for us, and I thought they started settling for some shots,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
This defensive adjustment forced Maryland’s opponent to look inside, and Green Bay’s rebounding struggles prevented it from winning. The Terps out-rebounded Green Bay 57-33 overall and 16-6 on the offensive glass.
“Coach [Frese] told us we have to rebound, get on the boards, get a lot of [offensive] boards,” McDaniel said. “So that’s what we really focused on today.”
The Terps’ stars were also relentless on both ends of the floor. Sellers finished with 23 points, six assists and nine rebounds, while McDaniel had 19 points and eight boards to give a jolt to her team that shot 33.3% from the field.
Early on, the Terps struggled with shot selection and forced uneasy looks, making just two shots in the first five minutes of the contest. The Phoenix were ready to play early, making five of their first 10 field goal attempts.
Maryland’s defense improved over the final five minutes of the first quarter, but Green Bay’s Natalie Andersen hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the period to put the Phoenix up by six.
The Terps would frequently make runs but then take their feet off the gas. Maryland guard Riley Nelson had a nice first half, and her layup got the Terps within two. But the Phoenix found good looks with their ball movement to reclaim a two-possession lead.
Right before the half — when Maryland has usually struggled this season — the Terps mounted a comeback to get within one at halftime.
A Nelson jumper at the buzzer of the third quarter gave Maryland its first lead of the game, 45-44.
The Terps controlled the tempo of the fourth quarter and were able to get Green Bay into foul trouble. Maryland shot 15-for-17 from the free-throw line in the period, which helped guide it to victory.
“We really challenged, you know, wanting to come out and play a lot harder with our effort and being unselfish, and I thought we took a major step in the right direction,” Frese said.
Three things to know
1. Lack of second-chance points. Maryland was extremely active in the first half on the offensive glass. But it wasn’t able to convert them into points, with 11 offensive boards resulting in only four points. Combined with poor perimeter shooting, Maryland’s offensive efficiency left much to be desired.
2. Riley Nelson impressed. The five-star freshman finally saw extended minutes, giving fans a preview of what to expect in the future. In 34 minutes, she was one of the team’s bright spots, scoring nine points. Her third-quarter buzzer-beater was one of the game’s most important moments.
3. The bench made an impact. It wasn’t just Nelson’s performance that helped Maryland complete the comeback — McDaniel was also a force. Nelson and McDaniel combined for 28 points, but they more importantly gave the Terps life when they needed it.
“We needed them to step up. And when their number was called, they were more than ready,” said Frese.