In a season full of up-and-down swings, No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball has been looking for positive consistency.
Head coach Brenda Frese has talked periodically throughout the season about looking for a full 40-minute effort — where the team is able to dominate a game in every category from start to finish — and had yet to see that through the first half of conference play.
Early in the season, The Terps’ young core was still looking to find themselves and the team failed to hit on all points in a game, with rebounding struggles early on and then lackluster shooting to start conference play.
On Sunday night, the Terps did just about everything right, scoring the first seven points of the game en route to a 79-50 victory — one of their most complete efforts this season.
The win marks the Maryland’s ninth-straight victory and comes during a defining swing in the 2019-20 season.
“For us to have the fewest points they’ve scored in conference play — on the flip side versus for as many points as we did, I thought that it was a pretty flawless game that I thought we played really well together,” Frese said.
Overall, the Terps topped the Scarlet Knights in shooting percentage (field goals, three-point and free-throw), turnovers, points off turnovers, rebounds, points in the paint, steals and assists.
Rutgers had one more second-chance point than the Terps and both teams registered three blocks. The game was tied for the first 35 seconds at 0-0, but after that there were no lead changes.
“The better question is what didn’t they do,” Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer said after Sunday’s loss. “They rebounded, they played Maryland basketball, they have excellent shooters, and they flat out outplayed us in every aspect of the game. Period.”
This player-led Maryland team has certainly begun to hit its stride, and it’s doing that with contributions across the board. Five Terps finished in double-figures Sunday afternoon, with all nine available players contributing to the end total.
“They’ve got players that are now coming into their own,” Stringer said. “Each and every one of their players. I think that they’re a stronger team defensively, I think that they are much more confident.”
That confidence was visible to anyone who laid eyes on Sunday afternoon’s matchup, as Maryland displayed excellence in all phases against a Rutgers team that came in with a 17-5 overall record, including just four losses in Big Ten play.
The play of freshman point guard Ashley Owusu continued to elevate, finishing with 14 points, nine assists and four rebounds on top of just one turnover. She continued to prove why she plays to well in transition, notching a highlight-reel assist to Stephanie Jones.
While freshmen like Owusu heighten their play as the season progresses, senior leader Kaila Charles continues to be this team’s rock, shooting 7-of-10 from the field with two free-throws for 16 points and eight rebounds.
“I’m just in the gym getting more reps,” Charles said. “I knew it was going to fall eventually because I know it wasn’t consistent in the beginning of the season, but just getting the confidence from my teammates, just taking the shot and just knowing that it’s going to go in.”
Even when the team struggled late in the fourth quarter, Frese and her team switched into a zone defense that helped slow the Scarlet Knights down and kept the lead in tact. While some may look for an offense that doesn’t stop in a 40-minute effort, Maryland simply used its defense to mask its lull and keep pushing.
Against a Rutgers team that is well on its way to making a run toward the NCAA Tournament, the Terps proved they meant business and are in it to dominate.
“Again, can’t say enough about our league when you talk about number two RPI,” Frese said. “Just every single night, the battles that we continue to face and you know, for us, it’s just setting the standard that we want to play at a really high level every time we step out on the floor.”
With five regular season games remaining for the Terps — including a battle for first place against No. 17 Iowa at the Xfinity Center Thursday — it will take more of these complete efforts down the stretch to keep elevating to new heights.