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No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball smothers No. 23 Michigan in 70-55 victory

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Defensive intensity led the way for the Terps in their first Big Ten game of the season.

Maryland women’s basketball Kaila Charles vs. Illinois Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

With 8:54 remaining in the second quarter against No. 23 Michigan, No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball used a scrappy defensive effort to strip the ball from multiple Wolverine players en route to a shot clock violation that erupted the Xfinity Center crowd.

The Terps were able to climb out to a nine point lead with 6:15 remaining in the first half, but Michigan shrunk the lead to as little as four by halftime. The game remained close throughout much of the contest, but Maryland’s strong defensive performance, which included 23 forced turnovers and 26 defensive rebounds, led to a 70-55 victory in the first Big Ten game of the season.

“I thought both teams looked like [they had] maybe a little Christmas hangover to start that first half,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “But [I] loved the fact that our defense and our rebounding were just consistent in a game like this. That’s what you got to be able to have as a great team.”

The Terps also held the Wolverines to 39 percent (22-for-56) shooting from the floor and eight percent (1-for-12) from long range in the victory.

Early in the first quarter Michigan forward Akienreh Johnson stripped the ball from Terp guard Kaila Charles at the Maryland elbow and quickly turned up-court towards an open basket, but a streaking Diamond Miller immediately turned on the jets and raced down to face-up under the Michigan basket — stuffing Johnson’s layup attempt and then corralling the loose ball.

Through the first five minutes of play, Maryland forced Michigan into four turnovers. But despite only being able to score five points off those turnovers, the Terps’ efforts added up as the game wore on, finishing with 25 points off of Wolverine mistakes.

“Our defensive pressure is everything,” senior Blair Watson said. “I think you can see the on-ball pressure — that’s where we get those steals.”

Maryland muscled its way to a 17-14 lead after 10 minutes of play thanks to its free throw shooting, as draining 7-of-8 attempts was three better than the 4-of-7 effort by the Wolverines.

Through 20 minutes, Maryland ultimately held a 30-24 lead with Charles scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in 16 minutes of play. Amy Dilk and Kayla Robbins had nine and eight points, respectively, for the Wolverines, but only had scoring support from three other players, who combined for seven points.

In the second half, both teams played a hand in an overall sloppy performance with five turnovers in the first five minutes of the third quarter.

“It think it was just us being aggressive,” senior Stephanie Jones said of the foul trouble posed against Maryland late in this matchup. “Like [Frese] said, we’ve been working on our defense and we still have a ways to go with that, but I think we definitely got better today.”

Shakira Austin was able to help reclaim momentum for the Terps late in the third, as she put together six points in a 1:13 stretch — helping Maryland to a 42-38 lead after 30 minutes of play.

Maryland managed to open up the transition game to start the fourth quarter, going on an 11-4 run to take a 53-42 lead with 5:46 remaining.

After the Wolverines fought back with four points of their own, Maryland sophomore Taylor Mikesell nailed a long-range shot from the right wing — the first three-pointer from either team through 35:06 of this matchup.

Dilk sunk a corner three — the first long-range make from a Wolverine player — at the 2:44 mark, but it was too little too late with the Maryland lead in double digits. Ashley Owusu scored two layups of her own and Jones added one more for good measure in the final 1:36 before the Terps dribbled out the win at home.

Three things to know

1. Kaila Charles turned in a big-time performance. Charles finished the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds — marking her season-high, as well as her second double-double of the season. In the first half alone, Charles tallied 13 points and corralled six rebounds in 16 minutes of play.

“I thought Kaila set the tone from the tip,” Frese said. “Played like the All-American that she is — was just energy for us, making a ton of great plays.”

Tonight’s effort also vaulted Charles to 1,685 career points — good for 9th on Maryland’s all-time scoring list.

2. Both teams struggled mightily from long-range. Michigan came into Saturday’s matchup with a known issue trying to score from three-point range, but Maryland added in struggled of its own as both team combined to go 0 for 16 in the first three quarters. Terp sharpshooters Taylor Mikesell and Watson tried their hand to make a mark, but missed three long-range shots each in the first 30 minutes.

The first made three-pointer — by either team — came from Mikesell with just under five minutes remaining in the game. The two Big Ten teams combined for 3-of-23 from beyond the arc.

3. The Terps capture their first win over top-25 team. Maryland had no trouble dispatching its unranked competition, but was able to put together a winning effort against No. 23 Michigan. The Terps are now 1-2 against ranked opponents and will need to build on this victory moving forward.