No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball overcame a shaky start to collect its eighth straight win Sunday afternoon, taking down Northwestern, 62-50, in what was a tight battle on the road.
“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.”
The Terps are now 19-2 on the season and sit atop the Big Ten standings as the conclusion of the regular season rapidly approaches. Maryland is now 8-1 on the road after defeating Northwestern and hasn’t lost since Jan. 25 to then-No. 17 Ohio State.
Maryland has just two games remaining on the schedule before postseason play. The Terps will face off against No. 12 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Thursday that will mark a critical battle between the two highest ranked teams in the Big Ten. Then, Maryland will finish the regular season with a home game against Penn State on March 6.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the win over Northwestern.
Maryland scored its lowest amount of points all season
Coming into Sunday’s game against the Wildcats, the Terps were averaging a nation-leading 93.2 points per game, five more points on average than any other Division I school.
However, Maryland had a very uncharacteristic performance on the offensive end against Northwestern and totaled its lowest point total of the season with just 62 points.
Through 20 games, Maryland was connecting with just over nine three-pointers per game. The Terps went 0-for-7 in the first half from long range and didn't hit a three until Diamond Miller sunk one in the basket with 6:04 left in the third quarter. The Terps finished just 2-for-13 (15%) from three-point range on the afternoon.
The Terps struggled with their perimeter shooting and also failed to connect with a significant amount of their layup attempts, making just 14 of 30.
Maryland’s usually consistent shooters went cold against Northwestern. Katie Benzan, who leads the Big Ten in three-point percentage, went just 1-for-4 from deep and totaled just five points on the afternoon. Chloe Bibby, who averaged 13.9 points per game coming into this game, managed just two points on a dismal 0-for-7 shooting clip in 27 minutes on the floor. Bibby and Benzan combined for 0-for-9 shooting halfway through the final quarter in what was a tough shooting day for the transfers.
Miller and Mimi Collins combined for 35 of Maryland’s 62 points, but outside of that duo’s contributions there wasn’t much from anyone else that is rostered on the nation’s leading scoring offense.
“Really proud of both Mimi and Diamond,” Frese said. “I thought they were terrific today, I mean just gave us the boost in the energy, double double, really every point and every rebound that we needed to have. I thought they just had a tremendous response within their game for us today.”
Collins also had one of the most efficient performances on the court for Maryland. She had a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“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. “It was just basically me having a field day because I don’t mind hitting people.”
Outside of Miller and Collins, the Terps’ offense will look to get back on track with a tough matchup with Michigan on Thursday.
Maryland pulled away with a third quarter run to capture the win
After going into halftime up 30-27, the Terps needed a stronger quarter coming out of the break.
And even though Maryland totaled just 17 points on 31.3% shooting in the third quarter, its defensive propelled them to a larger lead that proved too much for Northwestern.
The Wildcats’ offense seemingly stalled during the 10 minutes on the floor due to the Terps’ tenacious defensive effort. Northwestern struggled to find any room on the court and hit just three total field goals in the quarter.
Maryland also got the job done in the turnover margin as well. Northwestern turned the ball over four times compared to Maryland’s one turnover in the third.
Maryland would eventually go on a 9-0 run in the final four minutes of the quarter. Northwestern was held without a single point over the final 4:01 of the third frame in what was a dominant defensive effort by the Terps.
The Terps went on to outscore the Wildcats by seven in the quarter to go up by double digits. And despite a Northwestern comeback attempt in the final 10 minutes of the game, the separation that Maryland created in the third was enough to help lead to its 19th win on the season.
The Terps’ defense shut down the Wildcats
Without the aid of its usual high-flying offensive power, Maryland was forced to rely on defensive grit against Northwestern.
The Wildcats had just 27 points at the end of the first half off of 35.5% shooting from the floor and the Terps held them to one three-point make on five attempts after the first 20 minutes.
“We were just focusing and digging and playing Maryland defense to the best of our abilities,” Miller said.
However, even after a strong effort through the first two quarters, Maryland’s defense somehow became even more stingier as the game progressed. Northwestern came out of the last two quarters with 25% shooting from the field and 1-for-8 shooting from long range as well. The Wildcats went on to finish with 10 turnovers and just 30% shooting as a team, while they connected on just two three-pointers on 13 attempts.
“I thought we just did a tremendous job understanding at different times when we had to have a lockdown and get a big stop, but I thought we were able to do that,” Frese said.
When the final buzzer sounded, Northwestern finished with just 50 points on the afternoon, which is the lowest total that the Wildcats have scored all season. This defensive performance from the Terps was the third-lowest amount of points allowed to an opponent this season.
If Maryland is able to keep trending in the right direction on the defensive side of the ball as the postseason approaches, the Terps will certainly be a tough two-dimensional team to stop on any given night.
“Every game is different, you got to find a way to respond and I thought this team did it,” Frese said.