With less than a minute to go in the first half after a 12-day break from gameplay, Maryland women’s basketball was looking for its breakthrough moment.
As Penn State got the ball back, the Maryland bench erupted, willing a forced turnover that was corralled by senior forward Chloe Bibby. The Terps brought the ball down the court and gave it to the 2019-2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ashley Owusu who held the ball at midcourt before driving right and faking out the defender to sink the jumper and extend Maryland’s lead to nine at the half.
Owusu played in all of the game’s first 20 minutes and had a dominant first half leading Maryland with 18 points and 7 boards. The sophomore guard finished the game with a career-high 34 points, the most points scored by a Maryland player in a game since Kaila Charles scored 35 in March 2019, as the Terps willed their way to a 96-82 victory in Happy Valley.
“Being aggressive and taking what the defense gave me,” Owusu said on what contributed to her success on the court. “If [the defense] came up, driving to the basket and creating for myself and my teammates.”
Both offenses started off rusty, each turning over the ball on their first possessions. After Penn State won the tip, a bad pass out of bounds gave the Terps the ball but instead of capitalizing with points, senior forward Chloe Bibby committed an offensive foul.
In the first five and a half minutes of the game, the Terps went 2-for-11 from the field while the Lady Lions were 2-for-7 in the same amount of time. Maryland and Penn State both had games postponed and this matchup was their first time stepping onto the court in 12 and 11 days respectively.
Four minutes into the game, the Terps found themselves down by six until back-to-back buckets from redshirt junior guard Channise Lewis and Bibby closed the Lady Lions’ lead to 8-6, kicking off an 8-0 scoring run that took over two and a half minutes. However, the Lady Lions held strong and continued to build a lead.
“We had a really slow start where were missing layups and really needed to find our rhythm,” said Head Coach Brenda Frese. “[The first quarter] was low scoring for us. I mean, we like to put up a lot more points, and we’re capable, but I just thought our effort was there.”
Maryland’s first three of the game came with about six minutes to go in the first half with a successful shot from Bibby, one of just four long-range buckets by the Terps this afternoon.
Penn State quickly answered from behind the arc to build some momentum of their own but when they were one point away from catching Maryland, Bibby made sure not to let that happen. Owusu kicked the ball out to sophomore forward Faith Masonius who quickly got it off to Bibby for her second three-point shot of the day to extend the Terps’ lead to 34-30.
The game continued to go back and forth until the pendulum started to shift toward Maryland as they took their largest lead of the game at 44-37. Penn State closed it to five but Lewis answered with a driving layup in the paint.
Maryland’s bench brought the energy to encourage a Penn State turnover which lead to the jumper from Owusu with seven seconds on the shot clock to spark the offense.
“We don’t have a crowd so [the bench] gives a lot of energy,” Owusu said. “Angel [Reese], she’s gonna bring her energy, every single day and cheer us on throughout the whole thing.”
But Penn State was not going anywhere and continued to fight throughout the entirety of the matchup. Maryland was hot and in about a minute, with six to go in the third, the Terps made three of their last three field goals and went on a 6-0 run.
Penn State went on a 6-0 run of their own at the end of the third but with the final bucket of the quarter, Owusu stepped back to sink the jumper, extend the Terps’ lead to 69-60 and break her career-high points by bringing her total through the third quarter up to 26 points.
“I just loved our effort and energy and when they made runs on us, it would never phase us,” said Frese. “We were able to continue to keep making plays, you know, for each other.”
Maryland finished the game with four players- Owusu, Miller, Bibby and Masonius- in double-digit scoring. Owusu’s career-high 34 points lead the team followed by Miller’s 17, Bibby’s 13 and Masonius’ 11.
Three Things To Know
1. The Big Ten is a deep conference and every game poses competition for the Terps. Penn State kept this one dangerously close in the first half. When Maryland faced Rutgers, the game came down to the last second.
“We don’t really care who we’re playing, we just want to play the best basketball we could possibly play and play hard,” Miller said.
Six teams in the Big Ten are ranked in the AP Top 25 poll and two others received votes. Although Penn State is not ranked, they fought hard for the upset.
2. Maryland had trouble from behind the arc. Penn State came in allowing opponents just 6.6 three-point shots a game, while Maryland’s offense averaged 10.7 per game. Against the Lady Lions, Maryland shot just 4-19 from deep. Benzan leads Maryland in three-point shots averaging about four per game however, Penn State held her to just one that game with less than two minutes to go in the second half.
3. The Terps had trouble with fouls but Owusu filled in the gaps. Miller, Masonius, Benzan, Collins and Lewis all committed two personal fouls each in the first half. Frese’s rotation consists of just seven players which means when four players commit two fouls, other players step up and Owusu undoubtedly did in this game. She broke her career-high points in the third quarter and lead the team in scoring. Owusu’s 34 point performance ties for the 11th-highest single-game point total for a Maryland player.
“When [Owusu’s] attacking and being aggressive and making plays for her teammates we are a totally different team,” said Frese. “This is who Ashley is and I’m excited to be able to see her really put all this together for our team.”