It’s been an up-and-down start to Big Ten play for No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball, cycling between wins and losses through its first five games of the slate.
Sunday’s road contest against saw the Terps come out on top, blowing out No. 24 Michigan 77-49 to move to 12-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference play.
Here’s what stood out from Sunday’s win.
1. Diamond Miller flashed some serious potential
Freshman guard Diamond Miller came to College Park as one of the highest-rated recruits in this year’s incoming freshman class — a five-star and the No. 17 overall player in the Class of 2019.
Fellow five-star freshman guard Ashley Owusu burst onto the scene for the Terps, starting immediately while earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week in each her first two weeks with the team. Yet for Miller, it’s been a slower transition, averaging 6.9 points in just under 20 minutes per game.
But on Sunday, Miller showcased why she was such a highly-touted recruit. She scored a career-high 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the field, showing off her ability to glide past defenders on the fast break and finish at the rim at a high level.
She also knocked down the team’s first three-pointer of the afternoon and used her length to serve as an excellent second option to Blair Watson as the disruptor at the top of Maryland’s full-court trap.
“This game kind of boosted our confidence, especially for our freshman,” Watson said. “Gotta give it up to Ashley [Owusu] and Diamond [Miller], because they did what they did. And Diamond [Miller] giving us all that energy on our press, so I think it was just a great night overall.”
2. Maryland’s bench was key in this one
The Terps came into Sunday’s game against the No. 24 Wolverines likely needing strong performances from their two leading scorers in senior guard Kaila Charles and sophomore forward Shakira Austin. After all, their 70-55 win over Michigan on Dec. 28 saw Charles drop a then-season-high 23 points while Austin added 10 points, two blocks and two steals.
But neither made all that much of an impact in the scoring column on Sunday, as the duo combined for just six points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field in what was still a 28-point win for the Terps. Outside of Blair Watson’s game-high 20 points, Maryland’s starting lineup managed just 22 points on the afternoon with the bench picking up the slack.
In just the second game all season in which she hasn’t been a starter, Ashley Owusu came off the bench and provided a massive spark for the Terps. She scored 18 points on an efficient 7-for-12 shooting from the field and added six assists as well.
With the addition of Miller’s 15 points and a single bucket from freshman forward Faith Masonius, the Terps’ bench in all put together 35 points, all of which came from freshmen.
“The depth off of our bench was critical,” Frese said. “With Ashley and Diamond, those are the minutes we’ve been searching for.”
3. Maryland finally picked up a big road win
Getting consistent play out of her team on the road has been an issue for Frese through the early part of the season. Outside of its blowout win against lowly Georgia State on Dec. 18, winning away from College Park has been a tough task for the 2019-20 Terps, especially in conference play.
Maryland suffered its worst loss of the season at the hands of Northwestern, 81-58 in its Big Ten road game of the season. In its next showing away from Xfinity Center, the team fell to Iowa in a performance where the Terps shot just 31 percent from the field.
Sunday’s victory could mark an important turning point for the Terps this season — the win being their first road win against a ranked opponent and their first road win in conference play this season.
“I told them in the locker room I was just really proud of their response,” Frese said. “They just took great ownership of how hard it is to win on the road and came out ready to fight and that’s what you wanna be able to see from your team.”
Ahead for the Terps are road matchups with No. 12 Indiana and Minnesota, so there’s still plenty left to prove for this team in games away from College Park.
But Sunday’s big win at least shows that Maryland is making strides toward being a team that can win regardless of the environment.