No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball remained undefeated in conference play with a close 79-70 road win against the Wisconsin Badgers Sunday afternoon.
This was the 24th straight in Big Ten play for the Terps (11-1, 7-0 Big Ten), tying a program record for consecutive conference wins. Maryland is now 5-0 when on the road this season and remains atop the conference.
After five days in the Midwest, the Terps head back to College Park for their first home game since Jan. 10 before traveling to a ranked Ohio State team at the end of the month.
Here are my takeaways from the win over Wisconsin.
Despite pulling out the win, Maryland struggled to put together a full game
This young team has been hot offensively and as the season progresses they are finding their defensive groove. Though the Terps left Wisconsin with the win, they couldn’t pull that all together against the Badgers.
“[It’s been] a long road trip—five days that we’ve been out,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Anytime you can get a road win obviously we’re going to take it. We know how precious road wins are, but I didn’t think it was one of our better efforts in-game.”
Coming into the game, the Terps averaged 93.7 points per game, ranking first in the nation in scoring, but Maryland struggled to put the ball through the hoop on Sunday. All five starters scored in double-digits, but Maryland uncharacteristically shot 38.2% from the floor — a stark difference from its 48.9% average.
In the first half, sophomore guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu, along with senior guard Katie Benzan struggled from the field. As the three leading scorers on the team, they combined for a mere 4-for-20 shooting from the floor.
To start the game, Wisconsin got out to the early lead with an 8-2 run lasting over three and a half minutes that Maryland’s defense could not stop.
“All the credit goes to Wisconsin,” Frese said. “I thought they came out in the first half and we allowed them to really establish the game with a lot of confidence, the way they shot the basketball.”
Before facing Maryland, Wisconsin averaged 18 turnovers per game, but on Sunday, the Terps only forced 11, a season-low for the Badgers. After an impressive defensive showing against Purdue, Maryland has struggled to maintain that high level of complete game play for an entire matchup over the last two games.
“We lost two quarters, but for that, we just got to come out and win all four quarters and I just think if we just put it all together, we’re unstoppable but right now our defense it’s like a rollercoaster,” redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins said. “But we have another three days until we play Iowa so now we just have three days to prepare and focus on our defense and communication.”
Mimi Collins studied film and it allowed her to be unstoppable on the glass
Despite an overall weak defensive showing for the Terps, Collins certainly made improvements since she last stepped on the court. Against Minnesota, just three days before Sunday’s game, Collins recorded two points and four rebounds in 25 minutes but Wisconsin saw a different side of this 6-foot-3 forward.
Collins made it hard for the Badgers to take away the lead, recording a double-double by scoring 11 points and grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds.
“I just thought [Collins and Bibby] really allowed us to be able to stay in this game and to ultimately be able to win it,” Frese said.
Collins said she reviewed film after the Minnesota game and realized she had one major improvement to make— jumping.
“If you watch me play, I don’t jump, which is kind of odd but the ball ends up coming to me. And I just told myself that I needed to jump,” Collins said. “And so I just started jumping and the ball just like magically started coming to me.”
Senior forward Chloe Bibby confirmed that before the game started, Collins repeated to her teammates that she just had to remember to jump when going up for the rebound. It was clear that the message got through to her as she had the best defensive performance for the Terps.
Collins leads the team in rebounding, averaging 7.8 per game, and will continue to be a huge asset for this young Maryland team as they continue to work on their defense.
Chloe Bibby exploded in the first half and Diamond Miller did the same in the second
Bibby and Miller offensively powered the team to victory, combining for about 43% of Maryland’s scoring against Wisconsin.
In the past few games, Bibby has had strong showings during the first half.
“[From] running in transition to tough finishes, obviously her ability to shoot the basketball, to step up and make free throws for us. [Bibby has] the ability to spread the floor for us offensively,” Frese said.
Against Minnesota, Bibby had 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in the first half, and the matchup with the Badgers was no different.
As the rest of the team struggled to find the basket in the first half, Bibby certainly did not. She came out strong, scoring 16 points, recording four rebounds and two assists in the first 20 minutes of the game. To finish the first half, the Australia native was 6-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-6 from deep.
Bibby transferred this season from Mississippi State, where she went to a Final Four game that allowed her to gain valuable experience on the court. Along with her teammates putting her in strong positions to score, Bibby’s ability to come out strong stems from her experience.
“I’m a senior so I've been here for a little bit so I’m always just ready to play,” Bibby said. “When the lights come on I’m ready to play, no matter who we’re playing. And the thing I’ve just kept that mentality.”
The senior forward’s talent continues to shine each game, especially during those first 20 minutes when the team needs her the most.
Miller, on the other hand, made her presence known in the second half of the game.
In the third quarter, Miller was 2-for-2 from the floor, 1-for-1 from behind the arc and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. Thirteen of Miller’s 17 points came in the second half.
“[Miller] made a shot and so then she decided to guard,” Frese said with a smile. “That’s the youth right now and Diamond continues to work through that our defense can always be here for us and she doesn’t have to make a shot to defend.”
In the first half, Miller was 1-for-6 from the floor and 0-for-3 from behind the arc, recording the least amount of points among the starters. However, much like she’s done in other games such as the matchup against Minnesota, Miller came out of the locker room strong, leading the team in the last 20 minutes.
“She’s trying to get there and I loved her response in the second half,” Frese said.