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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball crushes Belmont, 90-26

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The Terps’ defense once again had a stranglehold on the opposition.

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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball was already in control against Belmont in its final game at the Daytona Beach Invitational, leading 37-17 at halftime. But after Bruins senior guard Maura Muensterman started the third quarter with a three-pointer, the Terps found a gear most teams simply don’t have.

Maryland went on a 28-0 run through the end of the quarter, taking its lead from 17 points to a whopping 45. The run eventually reached 42-0 midway through the fourth, as Maryland coasted to a dominant 90-26 victory over Belmont in Daytona Beach.

“I thought it was a 40-minute game,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “We show how special of a team we can be when we lock in and we play hard for 40 minutes.”

Following a performance in which she struggled to find a rhythm from start to finish, freshman guard Ashley Owusu took the floor and made her presence felt for the Terps. She tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists on the day to record her first career double-double.

The guard paired with senior Kaila Charles, who finished with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting, to carry Maryland in the blowout.

“My teammates were finding me,” Charles said. “Like [Frese] just said, we were running the floor and because we had that everyone was running. Like Ashley was finding me and it was just easy points because we were sharing the ball.”

Owusu and Charles’ connection was on full display in the second quarter. As Belmont forward Ellie Harmeyer searched for an outlet to escape, she was swarmed by Charles and Blair Watson. Watson ripped the ball away and swung it to a streaking Owusu, who caught it mid-air and made a one-handed touch pass back to Charles for the layup.

The Terps’ energy on defense was again the difference-maker in this one, though a slow start offensively didn’t allow them to generate much of a gap. They shot 6-of-15 from the field in the first quarter, but held Belmont to 1-of-15 shooting in the period and set a new season-low for points allowed in a quarter at just three.

“They’re a great three-point shooting team, so we wanted to make them have to work for everything,” Frese said. “I thought our defense was really locked in ... we turned them into 28 turnovers and I thought we were really connected on the defensive end.”

Harmeyer, Belmont’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, was limited to just 13 minutes on the afternoon after taking a shot to the face in the first half. She scored five points and attempted just three shots, while the rest of the Bruins would be held to only nine points in her absence.

Maryland found most of its offensive success scoring at the rim, as this ended up being another game in which jumpers from outside simply didn’t fall. Terp slashers managed to fight their way through contact and to the rim consistently, as senior Bruin forward Maddie Wright stood no chance at protecting the rim against the likes of Charles and Owusu.

“I think it obviously starts with Ashley, I thought she had a tremendous floor game,” Frese said of the transition game. “I thought they made great plays for each other and were extremely unselfish and we like to get out and run and I thought we were able to do that today.”

Nearly 50 percent of Maryland’s points scored came from layups, with the team attempting just nine three-point attempts on the day.

Owusu continued to assert her will at the rim into the second half, as no Bruin defender could stop the 6’0 guard on her way to the basket. She secured a rebound on one end of the floor, then took it coast-to-coast before euro-stepping around sophomore guard Maddie Cook for the score. It added two points to the massive third quarter run that propelled Maryland to a 40-plus-point lead and a monstrous victory.

“I think just staying alert,” Owusu said of how she thrives in transition. “If the defender steps up I’ve got my teammates to help me out, but if they don’t [I’m] just getting to the basket.”

Three things to know

1. Maryland created a lot of points off turnovers. It was another game in which a significant share of Maryland’s offense was created off turnovers by its opponent. Belmont committed 28 turnovers on the afternoon, eclipsing its per game average of 18 at the 7:10 mark of the third quarter.

2. Blair Watson had a big weekend. On a weekend where sophomore sharpshooter Taylor Mikesell struggled to find a consistent rhythm, the senior guard had another strong shooting day for the Terps when they needed it most. She followed up her 19-point performance from a day before with nine points on Saturday on 3-for-3 shooting from downtown, putting her above 40 percent from three point land on the season.

3. Multiple Terps had five steals. Maryland’s defensive pressure was unrelenting and overwhelming for its two opponents this weekend, and Watson and Shakira Austin played an important role in doing so. As two of the primary trappers in the full-court press, the two each tallied five steals on the day, contributing to 17 total swipes for the game.