After forcing three turnovers in about thirty seconds to close No. 14 Ohio State’s lead to six points with 59 seconds left, Maryland women’s basketball had the chance to capitalize and stay undefeated in Big Ten play.
Sophomore guard Diamond Miller dribbled the ball down the court and passed it to senior forward Chloe Bibby at the top of the arc. Bibby went up for the three, but she couldn’t drain the shot. Ohio State came down with the rebound, leaving Maryland with no choice but to foul.
Maryland made just one of its last 14 field goal attempts until Bibby, senior guard Katie Benzan, sophomore guard Ashley Owusu hit consecutive threes. However, it was not enough to make up for the collapse down the stretch, with the No. 7 Terps suffering an 88-86 heartbreaker in Columbus.
“When we were down by nine, 10 points late, we could have easily folded, and I thought they did a phenomenal job of playing hard for 40 minutes,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I’d rather learn in January than in March, but it’s an opportunity with our next game out to be able to improve and be better.”
The defeat forces an end to Maryland’s 10 game win streak and marks the team’s first loss against a conference opponent in over a year — the last time Maryland lost against a Big Ten contest was over a year ago on Jan. 9, 2020 against Iowa. The Terps lost that matchup by just five points.
Though the Terps were outplayed late, the game had an off feeling from the jump as they looked completely out of sync. When the pressure was on, they simply didn’t meet the challenge.
After slow starts against Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road, Maryland wanted to avoid doing that again against No. 14 Ohio State. Instead, the Terps came out of the gates, after a eight-day layoff, looking sloppy, something they surely wished to get back as they battled in a close game down the stretch.
Ohio State came out hot, going 4-for-6 from the field, and scored five unanswered points until senior forward Chloe Bibby snapped the drought with an and-one play. But, as the Terps continued to turn the ball over, the Buckeyes went on another 6-0 run that lasted almost two minutes.
With a little over five minutes to go in the first quarter, Maryland had already committed four turnovers and shot a mere 3-for-7 from the field while Ohio State shot 7-for-10 from the field while Maryland was shooting a mere 3-for-7. Out of the timeout, Maryland turned the ball over for the fifth time, extending their scoring drought to over two minutes.
“All the credit goes to Ohio State. I thought they came out and punched first,” Frese said. “We were really on our heels in the first quarter. Five turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and I thought [Ohio State was] extremely aggressive.”
Coming into the matchup, Ohio State has the number ninth-best three-point defense in the country, allowing just 5.1 per game, but with about four and a half minutes to go in the first quarter, senior Katie Benzan sunk her first three-point shot of the night.
It certainly was not the last as she went 3-for-3 from behind the arc to close out the first 10 minutes of play. Benzan leads the Terps from three and averaged 3.6 per game prior to Monday night. Her 50.59% shooting percentage from behind the arc is the fifth-highest in the nation and second in the Big Ten behind Iowa’s McKenna Warnock.
“I just got free and Ashley found me and I was open. Some teams are starting to I guess play me closer and trail me on the screen because I’m such a shooter,” Benzan said. “So Ashley found me when I freed up and they just fell and I was just trying to give some life to our teams to turn a little momentum switch into our favor.”
Still, the Terps trailed by six at the end of the first quarter. The 26 points the Buckeyes scored are the most points Maryland has allowed in the first quarter to a team all season.
With about six and a half minutes to go until the halftime break, sophomore guard Ashley Owusu dribbled the ball down the left side of the court as Benzan cut to the top of the arc. Owusu saw the open guard, passed her the ball, and as Benzan gained control, she put it right back up for her fifth triple of the night to give the Terps their first lead of the game.
“We were disappointed with how we started the game but we just had to pick up our energy to go on our own run,” Benzan said.
Despite the slow start and lack of defense in the first ten minutes, in the second quarter, Maryland went on an 11-0 run that lasted over three and a half minutes and included a three from Bibby, a layup from sophomore guard Diamond Miller and a pair of triples from Benzan to take the lead.
Owusu finished the night leading the Terps in assists, recording nine. Seven of those came in the first half of the game.
Maryland’s defense also improved dramatically in the second quarter as the team outscored the Buckeyes, 19-10, to take the 39-36 lead as it headed into the locker room.
The second half started similar to the first for the Terps. Maryland scored early on, but Ohio State took the lead as it went on an 8-0 run that lasted about two and half minutes before being snapped by a pair of free throws from Bibby.
The Buckeyes continued to fight, not allowing Maryland to pull away as they regained the lead with about three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter. With thirty seconds to go, Owusu got to work, brought the ball down the court and drove right to sank a layup to close Ohio State’s lead to two points. Nine of Owusu’s 33 points came in the third quarter.
Ten seconds into the fourth quarter with the game locked in a nail-biter, Benzan once again provided that spark. As Ohio State looked to pass the ball, Benzan got up for the steal, dribbled the ball down the court and got it to senior forward Alaysia Styles for the layup to kick off a 7-0 run for the Terps.
But once again, Ohio State came back, responding with a 13-2 run of their own, which included back-to-back triples from the Buckeyes’ Braxtin Miller to force a Maryland timeout.
The Terps continued to try and fight back with stellar defense as the game winded down, but the same couldn’t be said for the offense as the team shot 1-for-8 between the 1:34 and 0:25 mark, making the comeback effort an impossibility, even with three made triples in the final 19 seconds.
“Ohio State started with their run, but basketball is a game of runs so we had to go on our runs and, unfortunately, that wasn’t sustained throughout the game,” Benzan said. “But hopefully next time we can learn from our mistakes.”
Three Things To Know
1. The Terps struggled on the boards, especially Mimi Collins. After an impressive showing at Wisconsin, grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds, Collins finished the first half with zero. The 6-foot-3 forward averages 10 points per game and leads the team in rebounds averaging 7.8. In the first three-quarters of the game, Maryland was out-rebounded by the Buckeyes 37-23 as Collins only saw two minutes in the third quarter and she finished the game without a rebound.
“[Collins] had 17 boards against Wisconsin, how do you come into this game and not have a single rebound,” Frese said. “You can’t give us zero rebounds and three turnovers in 16 minutes. She’s capable, she’s a very talented player and she’s got to be able to bring that consistency to the table for us.”
Benzan, who averages just 2.1 rebounds a game, grabbed seven against Ohio State.
2. Sophomore guard Ashley Owusu continued to show she is a playmaker. Whether she is the one putting the ball through the hoop or bringing the ball down the court, Owusu is a key component to this Maryland offense. Coming into this matchup, Owusu led the Terps in assists with 62, averaging 5.2 per game. On Monday night, the 2019-20 Big Ten Freshman of the Year finished the game with 33 points and nine assists.
“I went cold and had a few turnovers, but I just [kept] my head up and did whatever I needed to do offensively and defensively to keep my team going,” Owusu said.
3. Maryland had trouble with turnovers. Coming into this matchup, the Terps committed an average of 12.7 turnovers a game. Maryland struggled with this at the beginning of the season but has since improved in this area. However, Monday night against the Buckeyes, the Terps committed 16 turnovers.
“They’re just a team that is very scrappy and I thought their guard play dominated for 40 minutes tonight,” Frese said. “They were very consistent and I thought they were able to get their hands on a lot of aggressive plays.”
Ohio State capitalized on Maryland mistakes scoring 27 points off the turnovers.