No. 14 Maryland women’s basketball fought its way to a fifth consecutive win, defeating Penn State 96-82 on the road Thursday.
The Terps started this one out slow once again, but were able to find their game as the afternoon progressed.
Maryland is now 6-1 on the season and hasn’t lost a game since Nov. 28. The Terps head into 2021 with plenty of momentum, set to take on Indiana and then Michigan State to open the new year.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from Maryland’s win against Penn State.
Maryland struggled to find its footing early on
In what ended up being another comfortable win for the Terps, it’s easy to forget the rough first quarter Maryland had against Penn State.
It was a fairly sloppy opening frame for Maryland head coach Brenda Frese and the Terps, as they started down 8-2 with plenty of missed layups on the offensive end.
The Terps shot 33.3% from the field in the first quarter and still managed to come away with a one-point lead. Maryland failed to hit a three-pointer in the quarter, as the team had five missed shots from behind the arc.
“We had to shake off some rust with the great break we had at Christmas as well as [we] haven’t played a game in 12 days, so it was something that I was kind of expecting,” Frese said.
Chloe Bibby, Katie Benzan, Mimi Collins and Diamond Miller combined for just 4-for-15 shooting from the floor in the quarter. The Terps didn’t hit a three-pointer until the 5:56 mark of the second quarter when Bibby nailed a corner three off a nice feed from Benzan.
Maryland took a healthy nine-point lead going into the half against the Lady Lions despite under 50% shooting as a team from the field.
The team had a similarly tough start against James Madison on Dec. 19, where the Terps finished the first quarter trailing by three.
This brings to light how much longer the Terps can go with slow starts as the competition starts to become tougher. Beginning games with shooting slumps will not be a recipe for success when Maryland faces ranked teams like No. 20 Indiana and No. 25 Michigan State.
The Terps dominated the turnover margin and used it to their advantage
Maryland used its defensive abilities to its advantage against a Penn State team that has been prone to turning over the ball.
In the first quarter alone, the Terps forced the Lady Lions into seven turnovers. At halftime, Maryland was +7 in the turnover margin. Penn State accumulated 12 turnovers at half and the Terps turned that defensive effort into 16 points.
Five different Terps had a steal throughout the game. Faith Masonius led the way with four, while Bibby and Benzan had three steals apiece.
“We wanted to push it you know as much as we could in transition,” Frese said. “They’re a great transition team, we wanted to put a lot of pressure on them on the defensive end.”
Maryland was able to maintain its high-level offense through its forced turnovers throughout the game, as the Terps consistently pushed the pace after steals with long, up-court passes for easy layups in transition.
Penn State eventually ended with 19 total turnovers compared to Maryland’s 11. The Terps were able to convert 24 points off of their opponents mistakes.
The positive turnover margin was a big reason why Maryland was able to close out Penn State in a comfortable fashion.
“We’re just playing Maryland basketball every time we step on the court and we’re just gonna play hard,” Miller said.
Owusu’s scoring sparked Maryland’s offense the whole way
Maryland has had consistent depth scoring all season, but one of its stars showed out this afternoon.
Ashley Owusu, the Terps’ sophomore guard, went on an offensive frenzy with a career-high 34 points in 38 minutes on the floor. She started the first half red-hot, collecting 18 points in just 20 minutes on 7-for-12 shooting.
“I think just being aggressive and taking what the defense gave me,” Owusu said. “If [the defense] came up, driving to the basket and creating for myself and my teammates.”
Everything was working for Owusu in this one, as she finished a sparkling 15-for-22 from the field with eight rebounds and just one turnover to show for it.
She found her sweet spot from the elbow and knocked in mid-range jumpers consistently all game.
The 15 field goals from Owusu were easily the most by an individual on the Terps’ roster, as the next best Maryland players collected five total field goals. On top of that, Owusu led the Terps in individual scoring in every quarter against the Lady Lions.
Owusu is one of the leaders of this Maryland roster and she proved it this afternoon. She showed tons of confidence shooting the ball and visually carried Maryland’s offense.
The Terps will need more performances like these from Owusu if they hope to stay atop the nation in overall team scoring.