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Three takeaways from No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball win against Illinois

The Terps continued to dominate in Big Ten play with March right around the corner.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball scored over 100 points for the fourth time this season Wednesday as it defeated Illinois, 103-58.

Last time out, Brenda Frese earned her 500th win as the Maryland head coach as the Terps put together a dominant performance in Lincoln, Nebraska. When they traveled back home to host the Illini, Maryland maintained that momentum and secured the victory. With the win, the Terps improved to 11-1 in conference play and 15-2 overall.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from the victory.

Maryland continues to play unselfishly

Led by senior guard Katie Benzan and senior forward Chloe Bibby, who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively, the Terps finished this matchup with all nine active players on the roster scoring three or more points.

The Terps scored had 24 assists on their 38 baskets, and this isn’t anything new for this Maryland squad. Game after game this season, they have spread out the scoring and shared the ball with one another.

“They’re really unselfish. You don’t ever feel that selfishness factor that someone’s got to get their points,” Frese said. “Although they all want to score — they’re really good scorers — but they get how to be successful.”

As the highest-scoring offense in the country, averaging 91.7 points coming into this matchup, Maryland continues to create opportunities for one another that give the team the best chances of being successful. The Terps average 19.6 assists per game, which is second in the Big Ten and Owusu leads the stat category, averaging 5.6 per game.

Sophomore guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu each had seven assists. Miller only committed one turnover, while Owusu had none. All of the other seven active players had at least one assist.

“I’m lucky enough to play with such a good point guard in Ashley that she finds me when I’m open,” Benzan said.

The Terps won the battle in the paint and on the boards

Maryland made 19 of its 31 attempted layups (61.3%) while holding Illinois to make just nine of its 21 (42.9%) attempts in the paint. On Wednesday afternoon, the Terps scored 42 of their points from that region while the Fighting Illini scored just 20.

When it came to rebounding the ball, the Terps were all over the boards. Bibby led the way with nine, followed by Miller and Collins, who pulled in eight each. Frese said that the team was disappointed in its rebounding in the first half, during which the team only out-rebounded the Illini, 22-21. But in the second half, Maryland responded aggressively and finished the game out-rebounding Illinois, 53-37.

“Mimi and I will go on against each other as well as Faith and Bird, and I think that competitive spirit and that toughness that we bring to practice is what we see in the game,” Bibby said.

That toughness that they build in practice transfers over into games. The Terps have five players averaging five or more rebounds per game against conference opponents — Collins, Bibby, Miller, Owusu and sophomore forward Faith Masonius. Collins leads the way with 7.3 boards per game.

Despite being a matchup between two teams on opposite ends of the conference rankings, this was a physical battle. Illinois and Maryland combined for a total of 27 personal fouls. Illinois’ Eva Rubin committed a technical foul at the beginning of the game after yelling at Collins and Kennedi Myles from Illinois, who, along with Diamond Miller, committed four personal fouls each.

“Today we’re able to finish with some no-calls, finish through the toughness, and I think it was good to see,” Bibby said. “That’s what we need to do. We need to finish through that contact.”

The Terps dominated all four quarters of play and look ready for March

Much like they did in the matchup with Nebraska, the Terps came into this game locked in and ready to play from the tip. In the first quarter, Maryland went on a 10-0 run and forced Illinois into 11 turnovers.

“As a team, we just punched first and we dominated,” Benzan said. “And as Coach B always says, we took their air right in the first quarter.”

The Terps outscored the Illini in every quarter, and in the last 10 minutes of the game, they did so by 18 points. Now, as they continue to build their consistency — something they have been working on as a young team — they are looking like they are ready for tournament play.

“The ownership is there. We get that we can score the basketball, you see that,” Frese said. “So, it’s just understanding that we’ve got to be able to tighten things up on the defensive end. So it’s coming, it’s exciting.”

Frese said that in the third quarter of the game, she called a timeout where the captains spoke to the team about how they wanted to improve and tighten up their game. They were unhappy with how many points they began allowing later in the contest.

But, that did not last long as the team responded quickly.

Defensively, in the last five minutes of the game, Maryland went on an 11-1 scoring run as Illinois hit just one of their last seven field goals before going into nearly a three-minute scoring drought.

Offensively, the team continues to prove that they are all weapons.

Looking back to the matchup against Nebraska, Benzan had just two points and shot 1-for-6 from the field and went 0-for-3 from behind the arc, while Miller had 24 points. Also in that game, Benzan had seven assists and Miller tallied two.

Wednesday afternoon against Illinois, Benzan had 22 points and two assists while Miller had 11 points, six of those coming late in the second half, and seven assists.

“Katie was so patient in Nebraska, she didn’t need to score for us. So, then you have tonight where Katie’s hitting for us and Diamond’s giving us assists,” Frese said. “So, that has always been the mark of just a championship team in my time here at Maryland.”