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Terps

No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball routs George Mason, 88-51, in season opener but loses Diamond Miller to injury

FAIRFAX, Va. — The Maryland women’s basketball team might have dodged some bad news during their season opener Monday night.

After limping off the court in the first half in obvious pain, senior shooting guard Diamond Miller returned to the bench in the third quarter to cheer on her teammates in an eventual 88-51 romp over host George Mason before an announced 1,513 at EagleBank Arena.

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The sight of a jovial Miller clapping on the bench was an encouraging one for the No. 17 Terps, who might have thought they lost their top offensive weapon, one of their tallest players at 6 feet, 3 inches and emotional leader in their first game of the season.

Miller, the only returning starter from last year’s squad that went 23-9 and lost to Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, yelped in pain after battling for an offensive rebound just 25 seconds into the second quarter. She appeared to favor the same right knee on which she had offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in the patella.

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After the game, coach Brenda Frese said Miller was evaluated at halftime, and the decision was made to keep her off the court for the remainder of the game.

“We just didn’t think it was worth pressing anything,” Frese said. “It’s nothing too serious. We’ll continue to have her evaluated once we get back home. It’s just more precautionary. It’s a long season and with just where we were at that point in the game, just wanted to be smart with it. She knocked her knee a little bit and just wanted to be smart with it”

In the second half, Miller wore the same black sleeve on the right knee that she began the game with and appeared to walk with little difficulty while joining her teammates for timeouts on the court.

Before the injury, Miller had led the Terps with 11 points, two blocks and one rebound. She headlined a starting lineup that included senior forward Faith Masonius playing in her first game since tearing the ACL in her left knee on Jan. 2 against Indiana and three newcomers in senior shooting guard Lavender Briggs, senior shooting guard Abby Meyers and graduate student point guard Elisa Pinzan.

Miller is expected to carry a program that endured one of its most tumultuous offseasons in recent memory. In a 12-day span after the setback to Stanford, five players transferred. They were power forwards Angel Reese (LSU) and Mimi Collins (North Carolina State), point guard Ashley Owusu (Virginia Tech), and shooting guards Channise Lewis (Pittsburgh) and Taisiya Kozlova (Dayton).

Maryland women's basketball player Diamond Miller poses for a photo during media day last month in College Park. Miller left Monday's season opener with a knee injury but was cheering on her teammates from the bench.

Meyers paced the offense in Miller’s absence. The Princeton transfer led all scorers with 19 points while making 5 of 6 3-point attempts and collecting six rebounds and three assists.

“It was great to represent Maryland in the first official game of the season,” said Meyers, who played at Walt Whitman High in Potomac. “I was telling my teammates in the fourth quarter when I was sitting on the bench that I’m impressed with us. Just coming out and not knowing in terms of expectations and how we would take the nerves in the first game, I think everyone just stepped up and kind of set the tone for the rest of the season. I think it was just a great first game.”

Briggs, a Florida transfer, scored all nine of her points in the second half and led the Terps in rebounds with eight. Sophomore shooting guard Shyanne Sellers, the Big Ten Conference’s Sixth Player of the Year last winter, continued that pattern by coming off the bench to add 14 points and four rebounds, and freshman shooting guard Bri McDaniel, one of the Terps’ top recruits, joined Sellers in contributing 13 points and seven rebounds.

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Briggs said she and her teammates understood the importance of filling the void created by Miller’s absence.

“I think our freshmen stepped up a lot and came in and brought in that intensity that might have been lacking when we were going out,” she said. “For me, I was trying to just pull my weight and continue shooting even though I was missing [0-for-5 in the first half]. Coach gives me confidence and makes me go onto the next play.”

In addition to Miller, the team lost sophomore forward Emma Chardon late in the second quarter. Chardon, who played four minutes, also did not return to the game.

The Maryland women's basketball team poses for a photo during media day last month in College Park.

The Terps won their 14th consecutive season opener since dropping an 80-68 decision at TCU on Nov. 14, 2008. The program’s average margin of victory during that span is 41.4 points, and a 78-70 win at South Florida on Nov. 8, 2013, is the only game that ended in a single-digit difference.

Junior shooting guard Taylor Jameson paced George Mason with a team-high 15 points and four rebounds. The Patriots converted just 29% of its shots (16 of 55), including only 23% (5 of 22) from 3-point range.

“I thought that we took open shots,” said George Mason coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis, a Mount St. Mary’s graduate and Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2002. “Those were open shots that these ladies practice every single day. So I don’t think they were forced. … But we expected a better shooting performance.”

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Miller will see the team’s medical staff upon her return to College Park. Her health and availability could be a significant factor when No. 1 and reigning national champion South Carolina visits Xfinity Center on Friday at 6 p.m.

No. 1 South Carolina at No. 17 Maryland

Friday, 6 p.m.

TV: ESPN2


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