Maryland women’s basketball was two spots ahead of Ohio State in the AP poll, and they shared the same record in Big Ten play heading into their Sunday meeting. The game carried immense seeding implications for the conference tournament. And Maryland delivered one of its most dominant wins of the year.
Its 90-54 win was its largest over a top-10-ranked opponent in program history.
It carried the atmosphere of a tournament game, carrying a buzzing crowd of 11,176. Folks were treated to a smorgasbord of scoring from senior guard Diamond Miller, who helped the Terps avoid their first back-to-back losses of the season. She was so motivated after the Iowa loss, she rewatched the entire game upon returning to the hotel, she said.
This, however, was a statement victory.
“I absolutely believe we made a statement,” sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers said. “If they don’t believe it, then they’re gonna have to find out for themselves very soon.”
Maryland used scoring runs to pull away.
Maryland went on a 14-0 run in the first quarter after Ohio State tied the game at seven. It was a fluid quarter of basketball and a refresher after the litany of struggles the Terps faced against Iowa from battling All-American junior guard Caitlin Clark and company. Against the Hawkeyes, Maryland’s runs were used to trim the deficit, but Sunday it used the scoring prowess of graduate student Abby Meyers and Miller to extend the lead.
Miller bulldozed her way into the paint and dominated the third quarter, scoring 16 (5-for-7 shooting) of her 29 points. Miller has had phenomenal performances throughout the season but this one stands out since it comes against a top-10 team.
“I was definitely pissed off,” Miller said. “They were playing dirty ... people call me a dirty player but they were very aggressive toward me and I guess I just showed them what real aggression is.”
The Terps showed emotion and prioritized their press.
Ohio State’s full-court press gave Maryland problems during the second quarter. During Saturday's practice, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said that the Buckeyes were trained to have their hands held high on defense, which was evident throughout the game. Ohio State forced a few turnovers in the frontcourt and predicated its defense on trapping players the moment the ball got in play. By halftime, the Buckeyes scored 10 points off 10 Maryland turnovers.
“We knew we needed to value the basketball against their press but I also reminded our team that we actually force more steals than Ohio State, so don’t make it bigger than what it is,” Frese said.
Frese identified the transition defense as a pivotal key to the game and neither team had viable success in that area attributed in part to the press. The team combined for six fast break points at the end of the first half.
Maryland’s players and Frese toed the line of almost getting a technical foul; It was a pretty animated contest. Frese let the officiating crew know when she thought there was a missed call. When Miller or Sellers hit a bucket, they let the crowd cheer as they let out an audible scream and flex of the biceps.
Ohio State has been struggling of late, and it’s been glaring as it’s lost four of its last five. It is still a top-10 team and a highly revered Big Ten program despite the Buckeyes trailing by 20 at some points during the game. The atmosphere at XFINITY Center emulated an NCAA Tournament game that the Terps will host if they receive a top-four seed next month. Come March, Jacy Sheldon will get her basketball legs back under her again after the Buckeyes star missed three months due to injury.
Frese tells her team that three games in seven days should not be an issue, even though it is a lot to go through in the grand scheme of things. Maryland has four days away from live game action before it travels to face Northwestern on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.