After the final buzzer sounded, the Maryland women’s basketball team erupted in cheers as they surrounded Mimi Collins and Angel Reese. Upon completing their first season on the floor, Collins and Reese lifted the Big Ten regular-season championship trophy to celebrate the accomplishment as the team jumped around them still throwing around confetti.
The Terps’ second-half performance propelled them to an 88-61 victory over the Lady Lions to become the sole 2021 Big Ten regular-season champions.
“You talk about playing 18 conference games, 10 of the 18 on the road,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Played every single team in the conference and it has prepared us. We’re definitely ready for the next step— postseason.”
This is the sixth time in seven years that Maryland has claimed at least a portion of the Big Ten regular-season title.
The last time Maryland was the sole winner of the conference was during the 2018-19 season. That year, the Terps went on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The other years Maryland was the sole winner were the 2014-15 season, when the Terps went to the Final Four, and the 2015-16 season.
“When we were cutting down the nets and everything, we were all just like waving to our parents in the stands,” Owusu said. “So that was my favorite part of seeing [my family in Xfinity] today.”
Penn State struck first with a shot from deep but Maryland answered with back-to-back layups. After the Lady Lions hit another from deep to regain the lead, sophomore guard Ashley Owusu tied it up with a layup, followed up by a Penn State shot clock violation. From there, the Terps got to work.
Owusu’s layup sparked a 6-0 run for Maryland that last over a minute as it forced three Penn State turnovers in that time.
In the first quarter alone, redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins had eight points in just five minutes. The 6-foot-3 forward finished the first frame of the game with 10 points and went five for six from the field. Collins tallied 14 points on the afternoon, doing so on 6-of-11 shooting while adding five rebounds.
“Me scoring those eight points in the first quarter opened up some more for my teammates and all of us got to score,” Collins said. “It just goes to show that all 11 of us can score at any willing time.”
To finish the first quarter, Maryland hit all three of their last four field goals and held onto their lead, 27-15. The Terps’ defense made things difficult for Penn State as they held them to just 35% from the field, below the Lady Lion’s 41.7% average.
Coming into this matchup, Maryland had the fourth-ranked field goal percentage in the nation with 48.9%. The Terps finished this matchup shooting 52.2% from the field.
In the first 10 minutes, Penn State turned the ball over eight times and scored nine of their 27 points off the takeaways. To finish the game, the Terps forced 23 turnovers and scored 28 points off the takeaways.
In the first three minutes of the second quarter, both teams turned the ball over once each but with seven minutes to go in the half, freshman forward Angel Reese hit her first layup of the day.
Penn State didn’t hit any of their last four field goals and was experiencing a two-minute and fifteen-second scoring drought until they snapped it with a three.
Less than 30 seconds later, sophomore forward Faith Masonius hit a three of her own to extend the Terps’ lead to 12.
However, Penn State continued to fight hitting four of their last four field goals with less than four minutes to go in the half and closed Maryland’s lead to as a little as eight points as Maryland had a zero field-goal drought that lasted over three minutes.
To finish the first half, the Terps went on a 6-2 run and extended their lead to 44-32 as they headed into the locker room. Although the Terps outscored the Lady Lions in the first quarter, in the second both teams put up 17.
“We weren’t playing to our standard...But I thought once we settled down and kind of started taking, you know, playing the way we know how to defend, the way we know how to move the basketball on the offensive end, I thought you saw a terrific response in the third quarter,” Frese said.
To start the second half, Penn State scored first but Collins answered seconds later with a layup to spark a 10-0 run for the Terps that lasted over two and a half minutes.
The run forced Penn State to call a timeout as Maryland defense was holding it on a scoring drought lasting almost three minutes.
Out of the timeout, Penn State snapped their drought but Maryland continued to force turnovers and capitalize on those opportunities. The Lady Lions had four turnovers in just five minutes allowing Maryland’s offense to go on a 9-0 scoring run forcing another Penn State timeout.
The Terps outscored the Lady Lions 23-10 in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Terps went on an 8-0 run led by their bench on the way to becoming the sole Big Ten regular-season champions.
“When you look at everything that this team has had to endure this season, just to watch their trust and their chemistry,” Frese said. “And in a pandemic, the discipline that they’ve had to have, the sacrifices that they’ve had to make and just playing for each other. I know for our staff it’s going to be one that you know we’re always going to remember.”
Three Things To Know
1. The Terps shot uncharacteristically inconsistent from deep. With about five minutes to go in the first half, the Terps were shooting just 29% from the field making a mere two of their seven attempted shots from behind the arc. Maryland has the No. 2 three-point field goal percentage in the nation, 41.9%. However, to finish the first half, they shot just 22% from deep, sinking just two, while Penn State shot 32% and hit six. In the first half, Benzan and Masonius each had one. To finish the game, the Terps hit just three of their 15 attempted shots from behind the arc.
2. The bench played a role in Maryland’s success. In the first half, the Masonius accounted for three points, four boards, and one assist. The 11 minutes Masonius saw on the court she made the most of making scrappy, aggressive plays for the Terps. Masonius’ three brought Maryland’s lead up to 14. In the second half, the Terps went on an 8-0 run to force Penn State to call a timeout. All eight points were scored by Reese and Styles. The bench finished the game with 26 points, nine boards and five assists.
“This is the depth you have to have if you’re gonna play, you know, if we’re able to play three games in three days,” Frese said. “You have to have depth, you have to be able to have different contributions.”
3. Five players finished in double-digit scoring. Coming into this matchup, five Terps averaged 10 or more points against conference opponents. On Saturday afternoon, Miller, Collins, Owusu, Bibby and Reese. all finished the game with 11 or more points. Bibby led the way with 13 points. Miller had 14 and Owusu and Collins had 12 each. Reese finished this matchup with 11 points.