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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball relies on defense to pull out 62-50 win over Northwestern

The Terps struggled to run free and convert on offense, but got it done on the defensive end.

Wisconsin v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball was up by just three points, a rarity this season.

As Northwestern looked to take the lead, sophomore forward Faith Masonius stole the ball away from and passed it up to sophomore guard Diamond Miller.

Miller pushed the ball up the court on the fast break to sink the layup as part of a 9-0 run for Maryland, aided by lockdown defense that held Northwestern scoreless for the last four minutes of the quarter.

In an all-around uncharacteristic offensive performance, the Terps relied on their defense to pull out a 62-50 victory over Northwestern Sunday afternoon.

“Road wins are precious, so I’m really proud of the fight,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean this was not an easy game for us today. But... loved our response, especially in the second half.”

Coming into this matchup, Maryland was averaging 93.2 points per game on the season, and its lowest-scoring game was when it put up 72 points on Nov. 28, 2020 in a loss to then-No. 23 Missouri State.

Despite the low scoring total, the Terps started off hot from the tip. Sophomore guard Ashley Owusu took the ball from the top of the court and drove to the basket for an early jumper. Less than 20 seconds later, Northwestern turned the ball over and Owusu hit her second shot of the day.

Owusu’s pair of jumpers kicked off an 8-2 run for the Terps.

Maryland forced the Wildcats to miss their first six shots, including three missed three-pointers. Northwestern didn’t score until more than four minutes into the game.

However, with about four and a half minutes to go in the first quarter, the Terps were experiencing their own scoring drought lasting two minutes as Northwestern scored back-to-back baskets.

Out of the timeout, Owusu snapped the scoring drought with a pair of free throws and Maryland got back to work. She finished the first quarter with six points, two assists and two boards in another performance that showcased her versatility on the court.

Maryland finished the first quarter up 16-12, an unusually low scoring period for the visiting team. The Terps shot 47% from the field while holding the Wildcats to 31% shooting. Neither team sunk a shot from deep in the first 10 minutes. The Terps went an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 from behind the arc while the Wildcats went 0-for-3.

The shooting struggles continued in the second frame. Five minutes into the quarter, the Terps had made none of their last six field goals as Northwestern continued to block the ball to keep them scoreless for over three minutes. During the drought, the Wildcats had three blocks from three different players.

But Maryland was aided by its defense as it was throughout the afternoon, holding Northwestern scoreless until about four and a half minutes into the quarter. At that point, the Wildcats were 1-for-7 from the field in the second frame.

“We have more steals than them, and this is a team that prides themselves in that area,” Frese said. “So I thought we just did a tremendous job understanding at different times when we had to have a lockdown and get a big stop — I thought we were able to do that.”

After having trouble from the field earlier in the quarter, Maryland hit all three of its last three field goals giving the Terps their largest lead of the day, nine points, forcing Northwestern to call a timeout.

Despite an ensuing 6-0 run from the Wildcats, Maryland ended the first half with a 30-27 lead. Before this matchup, the lowest-scoring half for the Terps was 39 points which they did twice — once in a win against Wisconsin and again in the loss to then-No. 14 Ohio State.

The Terps shot 39% from the field in the half, a full 10% lower than their average. On the defensive end, Maryland held Northwestern to shooting 35% from the field, which is 6.7% lower than its season average.

Maryland scored about a minute into the second half, but then went on a two-minute scoring drought that allowed Northwestern to close the Terps lead to just one point.

However, Maryland quickly shifted the momentum in its favor with a 6-0 run, including the Terps’ first successful three-point shot of the day from Miller to bring her point total on the day to double figures. Still, Northwestern’s defense didn’t let up as it went on a 6-0 run of its own with about four minutes to go in the third.

Redshirt sophomore guard Mimi Collins snapped the run with a jumper of her own, sparking a 9-0 spurt for the Terps as the defense held the Wildcats scoreless for about four and a half minutes.

“They were just trying to deny our guards, but we still kept on attacking and it just opened up for all the bigs inside, especially for me,” Collins said.

Northwestern ended the quarter hitting just one of its last seven shots from the field as Maryland entered the final frame with the 10-point lead.

Maryland once again faced offensive struggles in the fourth quarter, going scoreless for over two minutes. Senior guard Katie Benzan snapped the cold streak with her first points of the day coming from behind the arc.

The defense once again came up clutch to pull out the victory, forcing the Wildcats into a three-minute scoring drought. To finish the game, Maryland’s defense held Northwestern to make just two of its 12 field goal attempts, continuing an impressive displaying guarding the ball.

The Terps held the Wildcats to shoot 30.2% from the field and 15.4% from deep in the contest. Additionally, Northwestern’s 50 points are 20.9 below its average of 70.9 per game.

“We were just focusing and digging and playing Maryland defense to the best of our abilities,” Miller said.

Three Things To Know

1. Maryland could not get the ball in from deep. In the first half, Maryland shot 0% from behind the arc, missing all seven of its attempts. The first 20 minutes of play ended with Katie Benzan’s second attempted three of the day being denied by Northwestern’s Sydney Wood to bring up the Wildcats’ steal total to six on the day. Benzan, who leads the nation with her three-point field percentage (.534), was scoreless in the first half.

The first successful shot from behind the arc came about three minutes into the second half from Miller.

The Terps average 9.3 three-point shots made per game, but in this matchup, they hit just two.

2. Faith Masonius continues to make an impact. In the first quarter, Masonius played eight minutes and made the most of her time. The sophomore forward went 3-for-3 from the field, had one rebound and as she has been doing in many previous games, made plays that do not show up on the stat sheet. To round out the first half, Masonius added a block and steal to her resume. To finish the game, Masonius had six points, two boards, two assists, one block and two steals in 23 minutes.

3. Northwestern’s defense made it difficult for Maryland to spread the scoring. In the first half, Maryland had just five players score a basket while Bibby and Benzan were scoreless. The two transfers did not get their first points of the game until late into the fourth quarter. The Terps average 20.2 assists per game, seventh in the country. In the first half, the Terps had just nine assists.

To finish this one, Maryland had 16 assists, with seven of those from Owusu.

Just three players finished in double-digit scoring— Miller, Collins and Owusu. Collins led the team with 18 points, followed by Miller, who had 17, and Owusu with 10.

“We’re just gonna try to keep winning, bringing it out every game. And it was an ugly win but we’ll take it,” Miller said. “So, I’m just doing what my team needs me to do every time I step on the court.”