In the midst of a 16-5 run to begin the second half, No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball looked to get out in transition in one of the biggest games remaining on the Big Ten slate at No. 18 Indiana.
With 4:44 remaining in the third quarter, senior forward Stephanie Jones tipped a pass into the air that landed in the arms of freshman guard Ashley Owusu to spark the break. Owusu took it across half-court, lost her defender with a slick behind-the-back dribble and found a cutting Kaila Charles to extend the team’s lead to seven and force an Indiana timeout.
The Terps used a dominant third quarter to turn Thursday night’s game around, outscoring the Hoosiers 26-11 in the period en route to a 79-69 win over No. 18 Indiana in Bloomington.
“The intensity for us went to a higher level,” head coach Brenda Frese said of the third quarter effort. “We started playing Maryland basketball.”
Senior guard Kaila Charles led all scorers with 21 points and 11 rebounds to record her third double-double of the season, while Owusu finished with 19 points and five assists with 15 of those points coming in the second half. Ali Patberg led the Hoosiers in scoring, tallying 16 and 11 assists in the loss.
After using an 8-0 start to grab an early advantage the last time these two teams played, the Terps were determined to go on another stretch to grab hold of this game early. It was the Hoosiers, though, that threw the first punch, going on an 11-2 run within the game’s first four minutes to take a quick 11-4 over the visiting Terps.
Indiana shot the lights out in the first quarter, connecting on nine of its first twelve field goal attempts (75 percent) and 2-of-3 attempts from beyond the arc (66.7 percent) to rack up 25 first quarter points on a vaunted Terp defense.
“They were just attacking us and getting easy drop passes,” Charles said. “We were letting them get to the middle too much and we ran away from out defensive principles a little bit.”
Had it not been for a dominant first quarter from Charles in which she notched eight points and four boards, the deficit could have been much larger than just four points heading into the second frame.
The uptempo style of play both teams utilized in the first continued into the second quarter, with points coming fast and furiously from each side in what became a high-scoring first half of action.
Freshman Hoosier forward Mackenzie Holmes had no problem picking her spots inside, with their star guard in Patberg constantly getting into the paint and finding her big forward inside for easy looks.
Holmes led Indiana in scoring with 10 points at the halftime break, with Patberg racking up six assists en route to 24 first half points inside the paint while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field for the Hoosiers. The Terps played admirably in spite of their opposition’s hot shooting, but shot only 1-for-9 from three to put them behind 38-32 at the half.
“It was just ‘shake it off’,” senior guard Blair Watson said of how the team rebounded from the poor first half. “‘Shake off the first quarter, shake off the first couple punches and then just go to work’, ... we looked at each other and said ‘we gotta turn it up on defense, we gotta turn it up as a whole’.”
After a scoreless first half, sophomore forward Shakira Austin started the second half on the floor and ready to make an impact.
She scored the team’s first bucket of the half, and notched another on the following possession on a post fadeaway to her left that banked off the glass and down the barrel. However, on the next Indiana trip down the floor, Austin picked up her third foul and was forced back to the bench.
But Maryland proved it didn’t need its big presence inside, going on to rattle off an 18-5 run behind seven third quarter points from Owusu.
Holmes added another bucket to her total as the quarter neared a close to give the Hoosiers hope of crawling back into it, but a three-pointer in response from Watson put Maryland up 58-49 going into the fourth.
The Hoosiers pushed back in the final period, though, with Patberg and Co. determined to not let the visiting Terps off that easy, cutting the lead to four with eight minutes remaining. But Maryland’s talented crop of guards went on to put an end to their opponent’s comeback hopes.
Watson sank another clutch three-pointer to extend the lead to 10 with 3:07 remaining, while Owusu drove to the rim a minute later and laid one off the glass to put it away down the stretch for Maryland.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland’s winning streak reaches eight games. The Terps have now rattled off eight straight victories, going close to a month now without losing a game. Thursday night’s win may have been the most impressive of the bunch though, coming from behind in a hostile environment against one of the best teams in the conference. This Maryland team simply continues to trend upward over what’s been a relatively difficult stretch of games for them.
“It’s a special win,” Frese said. “Road wins are precious. For this team, where they were really exposing our defense in the first half to staying committed and true to it to bounce back in the second half, just goes again to their growth and maturity.”
2. Ashley Owusu comes up big again. Though she didn’t light up the box score like she did in Maryland’s last win over Michigan State, Owusu played a crucial role in helping the Terps pull off their comeback effort. She looked totally in control during Maryland’s big third quarter, showing just how quickly she can impact a game on either of the floor.
“[She was able to] just be Ashley,” Charles said of her teammates 19-point performance. “She was being aggressive coming off ball-screens, reading the defense ... she’s a great point guard and I’m excited to see her develop over the season and in her four years.”
3. The Terps struggled to protect the rim. Having the likes of Jones and Austin at its disposal, Maryland has routinely been a tough customer when it comes to scoring inside. The Hoosiers managed to expose the Terps again and again on Thursday night, constantly finding Maryland’s front court duo off position to get easy buckets inside to the tune of 40 points in the paint.
“They were just really aggressive in their pursuit to get to the rim,” Frese said. “Whether that be by their guards, by their post [players] ... they had a mentality that they were trying to get to the rim and get us in foul trouble and get to the free throw line.”