No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball got back in the win column Thursday, blowing out Michigan State, 92-52.
After falling to No. 14 Ohio State on Monday, the Terps were completely dominant against the Spartans and never stepped off the gas through 40 minutes of play.
“The winners and the competitors that we have in this locker room, you didn’t want to see any of us on Tuesday because we were so disappointed, but that’s because everyone’s so competitive,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “We want to do it at the highest level, and I thought the players were able to reveal that today.”
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the victory.
Maryland continues to make a statement in the Big Ten
With the victory over the Spartans, the Terps officially reached the century mark. Frese has led her team to 100 Big Ten regular season wins, doing so in just seven years since joining the conference and only losing 13 contests along the way.
Maryland has continued to dominate the Big Ten this season despite a big rise in the conference competition. Five teams were ranked in the most recent AP Top 25 poll, including No. 12 Michigan, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 16 Indiana and No. 22 Northwestern in addition to the Terps. Maryland currently sits in first place with its only loss coming against the Buckeyes in a close game.
The Terps rank first in the conference in scoring (92 ppg, also first in the country), three-point percentage (40.4%) and free-throw percentage (80.2%). They are also second in rebounding (45.6 rpg) and third in field goal percentage (47.4%)
Frese is also now two games away from earning her 500th win at Maryland in just her 19th season, which will put her ahead of Chris Weller, who had 499 victories in 27 seasons from 1975 to 2002.
“The pride is just the consistency level that we’ve been able to uphold here at Maryland,” Frese said. “All those wins are a byproduct and a result of just the talent that’s come before us, the current talent, staff, support staff, that’s helped us in so many ways to allow us to be such a successful program. ... It’s always been about, for me, not about the wins, but the relationships.”
Diamond Miller shined
Miller has taken a huge leap in her sophomore season, and she continued to impress against Michigan State.
The forward had her first ever double-double in Big Ten play, finishing with 20 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, along with two assists and two steals, in 24 minutes. She has now scored at least 20 points in five games this season. And Miller did so with incredible accuracy; she shot 7-of-12 (58.3%) from the floor and 4-of-6 (66.7%) beyond the arc.
Miller, who averages 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, had an off game in the loss to the Buckeyes, in which she ended the night with 10 points, five rebounds and two turnovers.
Upset about her performance in that game, she got back in true form on Thursday to play a key role in the blowout victory. Miller had seven points in Maryland’s 21-2 first quarter run, and scored two triples in less than a minute at one point in the third frame.
“It was no secret that I didn’t play the best I could play at Ohio State, but you got to move on,” Miller said. “We had a fresh start today and I think we showed that we’re capable of being one of the top teams in the country.”
The Terps looked like contenders
Maryland has looked dominant all season, but there were concerns about the team’s depth and defense, especially after the loss at Ohio State. However, those weren’t issues against Michigan State Thursday as Frese’s squad played its most complete game of the season to win by 40 points.
Rotation players had a much bigger role in the victory, with eight Terps seeing at least 17 minutes. Though she didn’t get on the stat sheet much, Zoe Young played nine minutes. Such experience will pay dividends come tournament time, which star freshman Angel Reese is expected to return for, providing even more talent for this team.
Sophomore forward Faith Masonius particularly impressed in one of her best performances of the season. She finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes.
Even if players didn’t contribute as much in the scoring department, they knew the role they needed to play for the team to be successful and executed that well. And regardless of stats, everyone was locked in on the defensive end.
Freshman guard Taisiya Kozlova had six points, three rebounds, a block and steal in 18 minutes. Forward Alaysia Styles only had two points, but she played aggressive defense to come up with four steals and two rebounds in 17 minutes.
“We were able to develop our depth to today, which is huge,” Frese said. “We’ve got to be able to have that.”
But perhaps most impressive facet of the game was the Terps’ defense, which never let up, no matter how much the team was ahead.
Maryland forced Michigan State into 24 turnovers, which it scored 30 points off of. Those numbers are the best for the Terps this season and also the worst for the Spartans. The team held its opponent to 52 points, 47 shots, 10 assists and 34% shooting, all of which which are season lows for the Spartans — they averaged 81.5 points, 20.8 assists and 46.5% shooting before Thursday’s game. They also only grabbed 27 rebounds, another season-low.
“Coach challenged us just to be better on defense and focus on our rebounding,” sophomore guard Owusu said. “And I think we came out today and did that.”
And let’s not forget, Michigan State is not an easy opponent. The team came into the contest with a 9-2 record, which includes the first loss to Maryland, and was No. 32 in the NET rankings. The Spartans, who were ranked as high as No. 23 in the AP Top 25 this season, also boasted the second best assist/turnover margin in the nation and the fifth most assists per game (20.8) in the country.
The victory is among the best for the top teams in the nation this season. The 40-point win margin is the largest for any top-10 team over a conference opponent with a NET ranking of 35 or better. Though some of those teams had higher win margins in some games, those contests were against non-competitive opponents, as shown below.
The Terps have displayed the potential to be a championship team all season, but if they continue to play like they did Thursday, they could be a legitimate contender.
“It was a really, really complete game,” Frese said. “So then the next challenge is the next team you get to play. Can you do it back to back? But I thought today revealed the character...of each and every player in our locker room, and what a terrific response.”