With eight minutes left in the second quarter and No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s still within single digits, No. 2 seed Maryland women’s basketball went on one of its most dominant runs in a quarter this season.
Senior guard Katie Benzan took a pass from senior forward Chloe Bibby underneath the Terrapin basket and accelerated with a burst of speed into the Mountaineers’ zone. Benzan darted past one defender, then another, as she flew in the paint towards the basket and beat the last three Mountaineers to the hoop and sunk in the underhand layup to cap off an 18-0 run for the Terps.
Maryland went on to outscore Mount St. Mary’s, 25-4, in the second frame alone. The Mountaineers were held without a point for over seven minutes during that span as head coach Brenda Frese’s squad made its presence known in March.
The Terps used their efficient performance on both ends of the floor to carry them the rest of the way and coast to a 98-45 victory over Mount St. Mary’s Monday afternoon to advance to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s been a long time waiting through this week to have it happen, and really, really pleased with our defense,” Frese said. “I mean to hold a great team like Mount Saint Mary’s to 45 points and not let any player get into double figures — I thought once we got in that rhythm after the first five minutes I thought our defense was really, really good.”
With Maryland (25-2) officially knocking out Mount St. Mary’s (17-7), it’ll face Alabama in the second round on Wednesday in San Antonio. The No. 7-seed Crimson Tide just defeated No. 10 seed North Carolina, 80-71.
The Terps are now 17-3 all-time in the first round of the tournament and 15-0 in the opening round games that have been coached by Frese. The program is also now a perfect 9-0 against Mount St. Mary’s all-time.
Maryland came into this one leading the country in scoring with 91.3 points per game, and it started the contest with its usual offensive efficiency as it looked to use its scoring firepower to its advantage.
Sophomore guard Diamond Miller got things kicked off for Maryland after drilling a three-pointer from the left-wing off a sharp pass from sophomore guard Ashley Owusu to give Maryland a 5-2 lead with just over two minutes into the first quarter. Miller scored five of the Terps’ first seven points of the game as Maryland took the early lead.
Though the Mountaineers hung in early, Maryland went on a hot shooting run towards the end of the first quarter to finish off a strong frame. The Terps went on a 15-6 run over the last five minutes to lead by 10 after as many minutes. Maryland’s spurt was sparked by its near-perfect free-throw, hitting 12 of its first 13 attempts from the charity stripe.
To start the second frame, Owusu took the ball the full length of the court and connected on an uncontested layup right down the lane to start things back up offensively for Maryland.
“Just coming in locked in and ready to play,” Owusu said about playing in her first NCAA Tournament game. “Just doing whatever it takes for my team to win, whether that’s scoring, passing it or rebounding.”
Mount St. Mary’s couldn’t seem to stop the high-flying Terps from there, as Maryland hit its first three field goals of the quarter, which forced a timeout with seven minutes remaining in the second frame after Maryland went on a quick 8-0 run to give it a 36-20 lead.
“We kind of came out flat in the first quarter with our defense, so we were just talking in the huddles and timeouts, talking to one another, saying we got to pick up our defensive intensity and just getting to those 50/50 balls and boxing out and rebounding,” Owusu said about how Maryland got on its second quarter run.
Even after the timeout, Maryland was in full control with a combination of lethal offensive play and stout defense.
The Terps finished the first half on their massive 25-4 run, which put them up by 31 points after the first 20 minutes of play. Maryland connected on 56% of its shots heading into the break and went 14-15 (93%) from the free-throw line.
“I thought once we settled in and especially when you look at the second quarter, I mean that’s as dominant as you can get, you know, 25-4 lead there in the second quarter. And then I thought we were able to really get in a great rhythm from there,” Frese said.
Frese and the Terps started the second half just as they finished the first — with a near-perfect offensive and defensive performance.
Bibby swatted a shot attempt on the defensive end and batted the ball out to Benzan, who worked it up to Owusu in transition. The Terps’ leading scorer, who finished with a team-high 20 points, then beautifully worked her way into the paint and dished it off inside to an open Miller for an easy layup to help Maryland to a 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the third quarter.
Maryland jumped out to a 12-5 run to open the third frame, as its defense also held Mount St. Mary’s in check. Up until halfway through the third, the Mountaineers were shooting just 21% from the field and committed 14 turnovers.
The Terps continued to dominate towards the end of the third frame as they scored at least 20 points for the third straight quarter to go up 75-33 heading into the final frame. Maryland had let up 18 points in the first quarter, but Mount St. Mary’s was held to just a total of 15 points in the second and third combined.
Leading by 42 heading into the final quarter, Maryland capped off one of its most dominating performances of the entire 2020-21 season.
Maryland senior forward Alaysia Styles hit a free-throw to give the Terps their 90th point of the game with just over two minutes remaining, which marked the 15th time this season that Maryland has scored at least 90 points in a game.
Owusu led the way with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and chipped in with eight rebounds and seven assists. Miller didn’t trail too far behind in scoring with 19, while Bibby collected a double-double for the Terps with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Mimi Collins and Angel Reese were also in double-digits with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Terps had won by 53 points and shot 52% from the field; it was the program’s largest margin of victory this season. Maryland’s biggest win differential before this game came against Illinois on Feb. 17, when it took down the Fighting Illini by 45.
Three Things To Know
1. Maryland’s defense opens the NCAA Tournament with a strong performance. Even with another strong offensive performance from the nation’s top scoring offense, it was Maryland’s defense that also got the job done Monday. Mount St. Mary’s shot just 15-for-61 (25%) from the field and totaled 20 team turnovers. It was a swarming effort from the Terps’ defense, as the Mountaineers also finished with a dismal 8-for-36 mark from three-point range.
The Terps also held Mount St. Mary’s leading scorer, redshirt senior guard/forward Kendall Bresee, to just five points on 0-for-10 shooting from the floor, along with seven turnovers. The Mountaineers’ 45 points were the least amount of points that Maryland has surrendered in a game this season.
2. The Terps continue to be lethal from the free-throw line. Maryland has been a solid free-throw shooting team all season, as it came into this game shooting 79% from the line, which ranked eighth in the country. In the first half alone, the Terps missed just one free throw as they finished the first 20 minutes with a remarkable 14-for-15 clip. Maryland went on to close out Mount St. Mary’s and ended with a 25-for-30 (83%) mark from the free-throw line when all was said and done.
3. Maryland’s win streak is now at 14. After thoroughly defeating Mount St. Mary’s, the Terps just continue to roll through their opponents. Maryland has won 14 straight games dating back to Jan. 25, when it last lost to then-No. 17 Ohio State by two points in the regular season. The Terps have won every single game during that stretch by double-digits. It’s truly astonishing what this team has been able to accomplish over the last few months, and it’ll try to continue its dominant run with a matchup against Alabama in the Round of 32 come Wednesday.