With nine minutes remaining in the second quarter against of Wednesday night’s contest, No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball showed no signs of letting up against Wisconsin on its opponent’s home floor.
Sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell swarmed Badger guard Sydney Hilliard as she tried to take the ball across half court and then used her quick hands to come up with the steal.
Seeing her running mate in senior guard Kaila Charles diving toward the rim, she fed the ball just inside the three-point line. With a clear path to the rim, Charles banked it off the glass to extend Maryland’s lead to 21 points in still the first half of action.
The Badgers looked just as helpless on that sequence as they did all game at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night, as the Terps blew Wisconsin out 85-56 to improve to 23-4 on the season and continue to make a strong case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland’s win Wednesday night is its 12th straight, its longest winning streak in conference play in three seasons.
The 29-point win also pushed the average scoring margin over the streak to 24.0 points, including an astronomic 32.3 over the last four games. The Terps are averaging an 25.3 point scoring margin on the season, which is the best ever in program history.
“You see all the weapons we have between our inside-outside game, so I think it makes it easier for us on the offensive end when we can flow inside,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “But to be able to get really easy kicks on the perimeter with our great shooters and with our post play inside just makes us dangerous of who you’re gonna help off of and who you’re going to defend.”
The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Stephanie Jones picked up right where she left off in the first quarter of this one, mixing it up down low to set the tone for how things would go in the trenches.
She spent the first seven minutes of the game on the floor for the Terps, pulling down two early offensive rebounds while putting in Maryland’s first two points of the evening.
But it was Maryland’s defense that stole the show in the first period, forcing turnover after turnover as the Badger offense struggled get itself out of neutral.
Utilizing the 1-2-2 press that has given opponents so much trouble this season, the Terps thrice forced turnovers in the backcourt due to their trapping, forcing 13 total turnovers in the period to jump out to a commanding 27-8 lead after 10 minutes.
The onslaught continued into the second, with the Terps outscoring the Badgers 12-2 over the first five minutes of the quarter to extend their lead to 29 points with still half of the period still left to play.
“We just wanted to come out hot,” Mikesell said. “We wanted to come out and jump on them early, take away their energy from the start, so I think we did a pretty good job at that.”
Facing an opponent that struggles to protect the rim capably, Maryland battered the Badgers inside the paint, with 28 of its 47 first half points coming inside the key. The team finished the night with 56 points there.
While the Badgers managed to ramp down their turnover woes after a miserable first quarter, Maryland’s defense kept the pressure on to prevent Wisconsin’s offense from generating any kind of rhythm.
Wisconsin only scored nine points in the second on 3-for-17 shooting from the field, with the likes of Jones and sophomore forward Shakira Austin sending back a shot a piece to further demoralize a struggling offensive unit.
Maryland’s suffocating defensive pressure made life hell for Wisconsin’s offense, holding it to just 17 first half points to take a 47-17 advantage into the break.
The Badgers showed signs of life offensively into the third period in spite of the deficit lying in front of them being assuredly insurmountable, scoring more points in the third than they did in the first two quarters combined. Wisconsin also managed to out-score the Terps 12-4 over the first five minutes of the period, but a 7-0 run over the final 2:13 maintained the Terp advantage, leading 70-36 entering the final frame.
Maryland’s senior leaders continued to add to their respective totals in the fourth quarter, with head coach Brenda Frese leaving Charles and Jones on the floor down the stretch of Wednesday’s game despite the massive lead.
Charles added two more buckets to give her a game-high 16 points, while Jones converted a three-point play to put her in double-figures and just one rebound short of a double-double. But ultimately, it was a full team effort as Maryland maintained its run of dominance and its position as top dogs in the Big Ten.
“For us it’s just continuing to understand the level we wanna play at for 40 minutes,” Frese said. “Just knowing that as we go into March, Big Ten tournament, we’re gonna play three games in three days, so developing that depth is really important.”
Three Things to Know
1. Kaila Charles continues to climb the all-time scoring charts. Just weeks after passing Shay Doron for No. 7 on the program’s all-time scoring list, the senior guard continued to bound up the charts with her 16 points in tonight’s contest. She’s now the sixth highest scorer in Maryland women’s basketball history, passing Brionna Jones and Vicky Bullett’s mark of 1,928 points all time. The next hurdle for her to clear is Terp legend Kristi Toliver, with 2,078 points all time.
2. Taylor Mikesell was letting it fly in this one. Coming in shooting 7-for-10 over her last two games from beyond the arc, Wisconsin rather questionably allowed the sophomore sharpshooter several open looks from three-point range in this one. In all, she took eight shots from deep in tonight’s contest, sinking just three on the evening but still showing the chucker mentality that has made her such a deadly three-point shooting threat in her career.
“It starts with my post players down low, they attract so much attention,” Mikesell said. “It kind of just opened up shots for me and Blair to knock down and they went in, so just credit to my teammates.”
3. Points off turnovers were a major source of offense. As has been the formula for several of Maryland’s wins this season, turning defense into offense was what ultimately help the Terps blow the Badgers out by such a wide margin. Maryland forced 25 turnovers in this one, with 14 coming from steals to contribute to 33 points off of turnovers.