The backdrop of the game beween No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball and Michigan State was much different than when these programs met earlier in the season. This time around, the game was down to the wire and essentially decided by free throws, and it ended with a 66-61 Maryland win.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Both team were playing with heavy hearts, especially Michigan State.
Following Monday’s tragic events, when a gunman opened fire and killed three students and injured five more on the campus of Michigan State University, both teams entered Saturday’s game with heavy emotions. The Spartans were grieving the tragic deaths of fellow students as Maryland prayed for healing for its fellow Big Ten opponent.
Saturday was the first time the Spartans women’s basketball team took the court since the unthinkable shooting. The coaches and players wore gray shirts that read “Spartan Strong” in green text.
Maryland head coach Brenda Frese spoke about the events in her opening statement.
“We knew today was going to be extremely emotional. There isn’t really a way to prepare for that,” Frese said.
Senior guard Diamond Miller said that during the handshake line, she told the Michigan State players, “I’m praying for you guys.”
“At the end of the day, we’re humans. Basketball is fun, this is what we do and you never want to see a young human die over gun violence,” Miller added.
Both teams faced early scoring woes.
Scoring in the first half wasn’t friendly to either team, as both shot under 30% from the field. Miller was a bright spot for the Terps in the first 10 minutes, since she already had double-digit points. The supporting cast struggled to get going early.
Maryland always reevaluates itself at halftime and the intermission message worked. The Terps started the second half shooting 7-for-10 and displayed better cohesion than in the first half, extending its lead to double digits. With three minutes left in the third quarter, still, nobody other than Miller had scored more than 10 points. It was another example of Miller’s dominance in the Big Ten and importance to the team.
The third period was an overall bright spot for Maryland.
“Fortunately we’ve been having really good third quarters,” Frese said. “I thought the difference was we’re about to get back to playing Shy [Sellers] and playing our bench.”
Maryland had success at the free-throw line.
Miller typically draws multiple defenders. It is something she is used to already. When that happens she finds herself in a good position to draw fouls. With three minutes left in regulation, Miller, who led Maryland with 29 points, had taken 17 of Maryland’s 31 attempts from the free-throw line. Whenever the Spartans garnered momentum, Miller and the Terps’ ability to get to the line helped preserve their lead.
“Typically we shoot it better from the free-throw line ... needed every single one of those attempts,” Frese said.
Missing free throws is never something that looks good on the stat sheet and the Terps couldn’t convert seven of their 37 attempts. Graduate guard Abby Meyers went 1-for-2 at the line with 17 seconds left and the game on the line, as Maryland had a slim lead after Julia Ayrault hit back-to-back 3-pointers. Senior Faith Masonius hit two to put the game on ice for the Terps.
“I think it’s just what I do,” Miller said. “It’s part of my game trying to get to the foul line. Definitely need to execute better, but I definitely will.”
The tour of rematches with Big Ten teams continues for Maryland, as it hosts No. 7 Iowa on Tuesday evening. The Hawkeyes beat Maryland in the first meeting on Feb. 2, 96-82.