No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball improved to 18-4 on the 2019-20 season Monday night, doing so by blowing the doors off of visiting Michigan State, 94-53.
It was the team’s largest margin of victory in over a month, and it marked Maryland’s biggest win over a conference opponent since 2017. The Terps had everything going for them in this one and continued to dominate as they extended their win streak to seven.
Here’s what stood out from the big win.
1. Maryland had its best shooting performance of the season
The Terps were firing on all cylinders offensively from the game’s opening tip, coming six points shy of scoring 100 points against a Big Ten opponent for the first time since the 2016-17 season, while setting season-highs in field goal percentage (61.0 percent) and three point percentage (69.2 percent).
“It’s a fun night when you share the basketball the way we did, you shoot it as well as we did,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “This team continues to stack days in practices, which is where we’re trying to be able to get from our consistency from.”
Maryland managed to set its season-high in field goal percentage following another commanding performance over Ohio State a week prior in which they shot 55.7 percent from the field and scored 56 points in the paint — a continuation of a dominant level of play that we’ve yet to see from the team so far in Big Ten play.
Though these two overt displays of their offensive prowess came against teams in the bottom half of the conference, the Terps are rolling right now and no one seems to have the answer for them.
Maryland’s blistering performance from beyond the arc is made even more impressive by the fact that Michigan State defends the three-point line almost better than anyone in the Big Ten.
Prior to Monday’s contest, Spartan opponents had only managed to shoot just 26.6 percent from three this season, putting the team in the top-25 in the nation in that category. But the Terps had no issue picking the spots from deep, finishing 9-of-13 on threes (69.2 percent). Sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell led the charge with a 4-of-6 shooting effort from beyond the arc.
“It started, like Ashley [Owusu] said, on the defensive end,” Mikesell said. “We got stops, we were able to get uncontested shots on the three-point line in transition ... Ashley and our other guards made a really good read kicking it out to us shooters.”
2. Shakira Austin showed off a refined offensive game
The sophomore forward has experienced her share of ups-and-downs this season. But recently, she’s showcasing more confidence in her offensive game. She notched 13 points in the win over the Spartans, and she’s averaged 13.2 points per contest over Maryland’s last five games.
And though her 6’5 frame gives her a physical advantage over most other players on the floor, it’s her body control in traffic that’s made a significant impact. She’s developed the ability to catch the ball in the post, face-up and score. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, native has also demonstrated her body control and strength, putting the ball on the floor and finishing through contact.
But perhaps her largest area of improvement has been her propensity to not only get to the line, but make opposing teams pay once she gets there. Her free throw percentage is up from 47.9 percent last season to 64.0 percent this season, and she’s already sunk more free throws this season than she did in 2018-19 on almost 30 fewer attempts.
“I’ve definitely been drawing a lot more fouls this year,” Austin said. “Just stepping up to the line with confidence every time has been the main focus and just making sure that I get those free, easy buckets.”
3. Ashley Owusu had a resurgent performance
After winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week in her first two weeks in College Park, the freshman guard has seen a slightly reduced role with the team as the season has worn on.
She’s since been moved to the bench, taking up an important sixth man role on Frese’s team. And though she scored in double-digits just once in the team’s prior four games, Owusu’s confidence never wavered and she scored a career-high 22 points in the team’s win over Michigan State.
“Just her energy [was key],” Frese said. “She’s a really dynamic guard that kind of separates us when she’s playing at that high of a level.”
In addition to setting her career-high in points, Owusu came two assists shy of a double-double and sank two three pointers — just the second time she’s done so all season.
Though swapping her for Stephanie Jones in the starting lineup has sparked a seven game winning streak for the Terps, a return to the starting five doesn’t mean she can’t continue to impact the game at a high level.