At the start of the second half — with No. 20 Maryland women's basketball up by 11 points — sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell drove in off the right wing and passed over her shoulder to Shakira Austin. The Maryland bench rose as the sophomore center took a shot from the elbow and cheered as she nailed it — sending Xfinity Center into one of its many roars of the evening.
The Terps ultimately blew ahead of No. 17 Indiana, 76-62, in their first matchup as the lower-ranked team — earning their third victory over a top-25 opponent this season.
From energy on the defensive end, yelling at teammate successes to throwing up three fingers and pointing to the bench when shots started to fall, fun seemed to be an understatement.
“Since [the Iowa loss], this team has taken ownership of their team — now I can’t get them to stop talking,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “ The accountability is there, the voice is there. It’s not being coach-led, it’s being player-led, and when you have a team that’s being player-led, great things are in store.”
In the win, Mikesell finished by going 6-of-7 from the floor and 4-of-5 from three-point range, while adding a career-high eight assists.
“It felt great,” Mikesell said. “But I mean, honestly, I didn’t come out here trying to make shots. I came out here trying to have fun, and I think it showed.”
On top of Mikesell’s performance, Austin led all scorers with 22 points of her own — including a 10-of-13 effort from the foul line — and drew eight fouls from Hoosier defenders.
“In the second half we just wanted to keep the gap going the same,” Austin said. “Just playing with the same aggressive energy on defense, everyone being locked in to the ball and on the offensive end just always making the right play.”
For a team that had exhibited struggles to start Big Ten play, Maryland came out and looked like a different team Monday night, executing those plays at a high level and simply having fun.
“We played hard for 40 minutes,” Frese said. “I thought the starters, the seniors really set the tone early in that first half and then I thought the sophomores were sensational, when you talk about the second half of just being patient.”
The Terps benefited most in the first half by an 18-3 second quarter run, which allowed them to climb out to a 34-21 lead after 20 minutes of play.
In a back and forth effort to start the second half, Austin went on to score the first 12 Maryland points, which was followed by an Ashley Owusu layup and then a Mikesell fast break three-pointer that brought the house down and ignited the team in the second half.
The looseness carried on — even in the fourth quarter — when Mikesell banked a floater in and clapped towards her defender, Ali Patberg to get charged with a technical foul for taunting.
Maryland teammates and even Frese had smiles on their faces in a huddle as Patberg sank two free throws because for what seemed like the first time in a while, the Terps had fun.
“I think everybody had fun tonight,” Mikesell said. “I think we definitely needed that as a team — as much as I did myself.”