With 5:49 remaining in the second quarter, freshman Diamond Miller held the ball in a triple threat position. She teased a shot but was really eying to pass the ball.
As the Michigan defense closed in, Miller launched a pass from the right wing all the way to an open Blair Watson in the left corner, who drained her second three-pointer of the game and added the final point onto a 9-0 run for No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball.
The Terps benefitted from 35 points by freshmen on the way to its 77-49 victory over No. 24 Michigan.
“I told them in the locker room — just really proud of their response, their resiliency,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I think they just took great ownership of how hard it is to win on the road and came out ready to fight.”
After Michigan took the lead off of the opening tip, Maryland buckled down and turned defense into smart offense.
A 6-0 Terps run came after the Wolverines tied the game at four early in the first quarter, which gave the Terps the separation they needed to build upon.
The Terps were able to score their first 12 points in the paint, but with 3:08 left in the first quarter, Miller took the ball at the top of the arc and drained the first Maryland three-pointer of the afternoon.
Maryland ultimately held a 21-12 lead after 10 minutes of play — including 15 points from its freshmen and 18 points in the paint.
“Blair has been there all along, but I thought the depth off of our bench was critical,” Frese said. “With Ashley and Diamond, those are the minutes we’ve been searching for with them. Kind of being able to spread that around within our team is something you’ve got to be able to have.”
A 9-0 run towards the beginning of the second quarter by Maryland then built upon that lead and culminated in Miller’s long pass to Blair for three and an ensuing defensive effort forced Michigan timeout at the other end.
After Michigan scored twice to break the run, a three-pointer by Taylor Mikesell, steal by Watson and long midrange jumper from Faith Masonius gave Maryland another quick five-point burst and pushed their lead to 37-19.
At halftime, Maryland held a 37-21 lead thanks to 19 combined points from Miller, Owusu and Masonius. The Terps benefitted from a strong shooting effort — including a 44.4 percent mark from the field and 30.8 percent mark from three-point range. Watson added eight points and two steals for herself, while the Terps scored 10 points off 14 Michigan first half turnovers.
“It starts at the head with Blair,” Frese said. “She sets the tone defensively, but I thought all five were connected to really be able to be aggressive and turn [Michigan] into a lot of turnovers. And I thought the intensity was huge for us.”
In a much tighter third quarter, Maryland continued to rely on the play of its freshmen to hang with the Wolverines as Owusu and Miller combined for five of the first eight Terp points.
As the Wolverines started to click on offense, Watson was able to respond with two three-point shots within 2:14 — helping the Terps get out to a 55-36 lead after 30 minutes. With Mikesell sinking an attempt early, Maryland shot 3-of-4 from behind the arc in the third quarter.
Watson continued taking the torch from the freshmen in the fourth as she went 2-of-3 from long-range in the first 2:25 of the quarter to help keep Maryland afloat.
With 5:24 left in the game, Shakira Austin committed a foul on the offensive end — picking up her fifth of the game and leaving Stephanie Jones as the only major post player available down the stretch.
The Terps were then able to build on their already sizeable lead — holding Michigan to five made free-throws before going on a 10-0 run across the final 3:42.
Three things to know
1. Points in the paint helped the Terps early on. For a team that has struggled lately, one of the keys is making the most of high-percentage opportunities — and Maryland did just that.
The first 12 Maryland points of the afternoon came in the paint — also hitting marks of 18 in the first quarter and 22 in the first 20 minutes.
2. Maryland finally found its groove behind the arc. After what has been arduous effort over the last few weeks, the Terrapins came through shooting 47.6 percent from three-point range — going 10 of 21 as a team.
In the first half the Terps hit from long range four times, but still attempted 13 shots for a mark of 30.8 percent. The second half served as a rebirth of sorts with the team shooting 75 percent — including a 4-of-8 effort (4-of-6 on triples) from Blair Watson.
“You could see that we’ve been struggling a little bit,” Watson said. “But this game kind of boosted our confidence — especially for our freshmen.”
3. Offensive rebounds keep on coming. Even in the loss against Iowa, Maryland was able to hang its hat on 38 rebounds on the offensive end, despite the 66-61 loss.
Against Michigan, the Terps made the most of their 15 offensive rebounds, scoring nine second-chance points en-route to the victory. When a team is able to make the most of its misses they are hard to stop.