With 6:40 remaining in the third quarter, sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell received the feed from freshman guard Ashley Owusu and stepped into an open three-pointer.
The ball dropped straight through net, tying her career-high for threes made in a single game (5) for the second consecutive contest en route to leading No. 9 Maryland women's basketball to an 88-54 victory over George Washington.
The sophomore guard has been on a hot streak these last two games, tying career-highs of 23 points and five three-pointers made against Delaware last time out. And on Tuesday, Mikesell continued to make it happen for the Terps from beyond, shooting 63.6 percent to lead the team with 19 points.
“I’m just playing and not putting any extra emphasis on it,” Mikesell said of her pair of strong performances. “Just playing the game how it’s supposed to be played and just focusing on both ends of the court.”
It took just five seconds for the Brenda Frese’s squad to get on the scoreboard in this one, with Mikesell picking up where she left off from her 23-point performance on Sunday by sinking a long two-point jumper to put the Terps up quickly.
Utilizing the same starting five that yielded their second highest scoring total of the season its last time out, Maryland jumped out to a near-instant double-digit lead.
Though the Terps managed to score the ball with relative ease on Wednesday evening, it was their hounding defensive effort that allowed them to seize control of the game as quickly as they did.
Maryland continued to trap with the same intensity that forced its previous opponent into 25 turnovers, causing three shot clock violations in the first five minutes of action and inflicting 14 total turnovers at the end of the first half.
The Terps sprinted out to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter — doing so on the back of eight points of 3-for-3 shooting by Mikesell to begin the game. George Washington pushed back into the second quarter, though, with a three-pointer by freshman guard Tori Hyduke cutting the deficit to just 12 with 3:19 remaining in the period.
“I was nice to see us pick up where we left off on Sunday with our aggressiveness on both ends of the floor,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “George Washington, they’re always a really well-coached team ... I thought they fought extremely hard.”
Mikesell began to cool down into the second quarter after her hot start, missing each of her first two attempts in the period as the Colonials mounted their comeback. But the third time proved to be the charm for the sophomore sharpshooter, as she connected on her third attempt of the quarter to crack double digits in the first half and extend the Terp lead to back 15 points.
Making her second straight start of the season, sophomore forward Shakira Austin was a menace on either end of the floor once again in this one. Defensively, Austin was everywhere, racking up four blocks and three steals in just the first half while altering shots at the rim without fouling.
“Defensively, adding Shakira as the enforcer inside and Blair [Watson] as a senior, I think those two areas have really helped us improve on the defensive end,” Frese said. “They have a mentality, both of them, that they wanna get stops.”
Mikesell returned to form in the third quarter, putting together another eight point period while hitting on two more three balls to bring her even with her career-high for three pointers in a single game. Her fourth and near-record breaking attempt of the quarter would fall short, but she nonetheless helped the Terps extend their lead to nearly 30 points entering the fourth.
She hoisted one final attempt from beyond the arc in the fourth, which careened off of the rim and into the arms of a defender, marking another spectacular performance in which she came just a bounce away from setting a new career-high.
“Not at all,” Mikesell said of whether she was thinking of breaking her career-high on the final shot. “I honestly didn’t even know how many I had made at that point.”
Three Things to Know
- Maryland is beginning to develop an identity. Since forcing James Madison into seven fourth quarter turnovers in a 70-68 come from behind victory a week ago, Maryland has shown a commitment to a frenetic defense that’s given its previous two opponents fits offensively. Tonight’s game marks the third in a row that the Terps have forced 18 or more turnovers, contributing to 71 points off turnovers over that span.
“It’s something we’ve really spent a lot of time talking about, what our identity is going to be,” Frese said. “[It] can’t be that if our shots aren’t falling that we can’t play defense, so we’ve definitely bought into that. I think you’re able to see the mentality from the defensive end that they’re really starting to set the tone with.”
2. The Terps were disciplined offensively. Another theme from Maryland’s iffy performance against James Madison that has since ceased has been its offensive precision and execution. After committing 18 turnovers against the Dukes, Maryland only lost the ball 13 times in this contest compared to 21 assists, culminating in a 21-13 assist-turnover ratio.
3. Freshman guard Ashley Owusu played a fine game despite a season-low scoring total. Owusu notched eight points on the evening — despite averaging 15.3 points per game heading in — and added nine assists and seven rebounds, which was just shy of a triple-double. Owusu sitting below Mikesell, Austin, Charles and Jones on the score sheet may surprise some, but the all-around performance was nearly one for the ages. And the nine assists tied her career-high.
“I think just finding the open man,” Owusu said of what contributed to her performance. “Whether it was a player running to the basket or to an open three, just finding the open man.”