Looking to deliver the finishing blow and secure No. 20 Maryland women’s basketball’s third ranked win of the season, sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell checked in hunting that killshot — her third three-pointer of the evening.
As time ticked down in the third quarter, freshman guard Ashley Owusu collected a defensive rebound and quickly pushed the action in transition. With Mikesell trailing behind her, Owusu turned and kicked it out to the quick-trigger sophomore, who launched and sank her third triple of the night to cap a 7-0 run and get all of her teammates up off the bench in support.
The Terps went on numerous big scoring runs to sink No. 17 Indiana, 76-62, in Monday’s Martin Luther King Day contest.
Sophomore forward Shakira Austin led all scorers with 22 points, three off from her career-high, while going 10-for-13 from the free throw line. Mikesell followed right behind with 16 point on 6-for-7 shooting, with seniors Kaila Charles and Stephanie Jones each adding 12 points a piece.
Having scored 46 points in the paint in its win over Nebraska last Thursday, Maryland jumped all over the Hoosiers from the opening tip and attacked at the rim. It was a dream start for the Terps, going on an 8-0 run over the game’s first 2:13 of the game, with all eight of those points coming in the paint.
“It was really important for us to set the tone early from the tip,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “The mindset that we had — the effort and the energy defensively — was really, really good.”
Indiana settled in as the first period went on though, forcing Maryland to shoot just 2-for-10 from the field following its 4-for-6 start to the game. Still, the Terps managed to do enough to take a one-point lead into the second frame.
But the second quarter turned into another track meet for Maryland, which took very little time to open up a double-digit lead on its opponent.
Following a steal, Charles took it the length of the floor before euro-stepping through the lane for the score. On the ensuing inbound, Mikesell chased down a loose ball in the open floor and tip-toed the sideline to find Blair Watson right under the rim for two more, stretching the lead to six while getting the Xfinity Center crowd into it.
Maryland went on to finish the half on an 18-3 scoring run, including two big, confidence-building deep balls from Mikesell to give the team a 34-21 lead by the halftime break. The Terps held the Hoosiers to just 2-for-10 from the field while committing seven turnovers in the second. And Indiana didn’t score a point for the final 5:51 of the second quarter.
“We were just wearing them down,” Frese said of the second quarter run. “I knew it was gonna be a game of runs, and they’re a really talented team so it’s just I thought kind of a battle of wills.
The Hoosiers broke their scoring spell early in the second half, beginning the third quarter by connecting on four of their first six shots to cut into the Maryland lead. But Brenda Frese’s big presence inside in the 6’5 Shakira Austin was poised to prevent an Indiana comeback from gaining steam.
The sophomore proved too much for Indiana’s forwards to handle inside, scoring Maryland’s first 14 points of the second half while going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to single-handedly maintain the Terps’ double-digit lead.
She finished the night with 22 points on 6-for-12 shooting, her highest scoring total in over a month. Her third quarter performance helped the Terps take a 57-37 lead into the final frame.
“The first half was pretty frustrating,” Austin said of scoring just two points in the first half. “So the second half, just washing all the first half away and playing with energy and like coach said just being aggressive and like knowing no one can stop me.”
The Terps continued to pour it on in the fourth quarter as the Hoosiers began to visibly show their discouragement, with Maryland eventually leading by as many as 22 before the halfway point of the final frame. Emptying the bench as the game wore down, the Terps were able to coast to the finish line their third straight win.
Three things to know
1. Taylor Mikesell had a bounceback performance. The sharp-shooting sophomore guard came in on a rocky streak, but finished 6-of-7 from the floor and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. She also added eight assists on the evening — a new career-high — as she took over point guard duties whenever Ashley Owusu would head to the bench.
“Just getting real comfortable there,” Mikesell said of her performance at point guard. “Just kinda seeing the pace of the game and who’s hot at what times, and our seniors like coach [Frese] said started off really hot so just going to them, calling plays and letting the flow of the game happen.”
2. The Terps got whatever they wanted in the paint. Maryland’s blowout win over Nebraska was fueled by its ability to effectively finish at the rim, and its victory over Indiana was no different.
The Terps totaled 44 points in the paint, doing so thanks to assertive play by Charles, Austin and senior forward Stephanie Jones. Indiana is no pushover when it comes to protecting the paint, so give Maryland credit for being able to score as effectively as it did on Monday.
3. Maryland passed the ball very well. Part of the reason why the Terps were able to find as much offensive success as they did on Monday night was their commitment to making the right pass throughout the game.
Of their 29 field goals, 19 of them were assisted on, with Mikesell and Watson leading the effort with eight and six assists, respectively. Maryland also surpassed it’s season-average for assists per game of 18, another testament to its near-perfect level of play in this one.