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No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball holds off No. 19 Indiana, 84-80, for 20th straight Big Ten win

COLLEGE PARK — Entering Monday night’s game, the Maryland women’s basketball team played like it belonged 11 spots higher than No. 12 in the country.

But even as they scraped through their most difficult home game yet, the Terps emerged still the team to beat in the Big Ten Conference, edging a defiant, veteran-led Indiana squad, 84-80, and ruining the Hoosiers’ perfect Big Ten record while maintaining their own. The four-point win ties Maryland’s smallest margin of victory this season, matching its win over Rutgers in December, but the Terps’ perfect streak against conference opponents stretched to 20 wins.

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Once again, sophomore guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu heavily influenced the Terps’ path towards triumph, splitting 40 points evenly between them.

“We continue to prove what a great team we are,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I think it’s too early to say where any team is at in this league, but I think for us, we want to prove ourselves every time we step out on the floor.”

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Miller played just one minute of the second quarter, tagged by a pair of fouls. She more than made up for her time off the floor by contributing 20 points — on 8-for-12 shooting — with her and-one baskets and 3-pointers earning the most passionate sideline support of the night.

The challenges of conference play are setting in for the Terps (7-1, 3-0). In its first seven games, Maryland averaged 97.3 points, three times eclipsing 100. Despite a return to life in the later in the second half, the Terps fell short of that mark in their second Big Ten game.

In another department, the Terps improved. Over the past few games, Maryland creaked with rust in its first quarter outings. The Terps managed 16 points in 10 minutes the past two games.

On Monday, they put up 10 points in less than two minutes. Half they posted off the fast break.

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First, Katie Benzan (12 points) tossed firecrackers on the floor when she hit two back-to-back 3-pointers like it was nothing. Her surrounding crew sped their way to the other four points.

Meanwhile, Indiana couldn’t claw its way through the home defense for a morsel, not until a third of the way through the frame. The Hoosiers notched a layup and a made free throw, the effects of which Chloe Bibby (15 points) immediately neutralized with her own 3-pointer.

The Terps became so juiced with fevered joy that every positive moment was greeted with thunderous applause, including from injured freshman Angel Reese, who would not let a broken foot and a heavy boot stop her from pumping the air.

Halfway through the first quarter, the Hoosiers, thick with desperation, traded anxious passes as they tried to eke in a basket. Caught in the web of the Terps defense, Indiana’s shooters were rendered useless; Maryland’s sideline screamed as the shot clock violation buzzer bellowed.

“We were just ready to play,” Bibby said. “We knew that Indiana would be a tough team and I think it all started in our warmup when we were hyped and we were locked in early. It really just helped us follow it into the first quarter.”

Two teams that should have been competitive from the start stood on either sides of a cavern by quarter’s end, as Maryland led 23-9.

But the buzz wore off quickly.

Come the second quarter, Indiana siphoned off some of that Terps momentum to clamber its way back, forcing Maryland into a timeout leading 35-34. Hoosiers junior guard Grace Berger (26 points) scored eight and junior forward Aleksa Gulbe drained two buckets from beyond the arc.

Owusu returned to the floor after her five-minute break to net another five points. Her presence on the other side of the court was quickly felt; Indiana struggled to score, making just another two field goals before quarter’s end.

Though she played only four minutes in the second quarter, Owusu came into halftime leading her squad with 13 points as the Terps kept Indiana at bay, 41-29, despite recording their lowest single-quarter total of the night with 18 points.

“What hurt us is when Ashley and Diamond had to leave the floor, when they were in foul trouble. That was a huge shift in the second quarter,” Frese said. “We were mixing it up with the man and zone [defense] to protect the lead that we had until we could get them back.”

Part of the Terps’ struggles in the second quarter could’ve been attributed to their one-and-done shooting. Though Indiana managed 10 offensive rebounds by halftime, Maryland had yet to secure its first.

In its past two home games, Maryland put away its opponents in the third quarter. But that was nonconference play.

Indiana roared to an eight-point start, quickly chewing away the double-digit lead Maryland had protected all game long. The Terps paled in comparison, scoring five points in five minutes.

But as Maryland’s shooters earned back a little of that aggression from the game’s start, the Terps re-established the double-digit lead. This time, it would be Indiana forced to call a timeout and brainstorm how it could stop a Maryland team when it got hot.

In short, it couldn’t. Owusu pushed her total to 19 points on an ankle breaking, buzzer-beating jumper and Maryland headed to the final quarter up 61-47.

“Ashley just made great decisions, being able to know when to hit the roll, the pop ... being able to slice them and to be able to attack,” Frese said. “That’s what makes Ashley such a great floor general; she doesn’t really predetermine what she’s going to do.”

As it did in the second quarter, Indiana outscored its hosts in the fourth, this time by a more exaggerated margin: 33-23. However, a three-minute field-goal drought kept the Hoosiers from overtaking their hosts and spoiling the Terps’ unbeaten Big Ten mark.

“You knew they weren’t going to quit with the response we had and the plays we were making. Thank goodness we had the buffer we did,” Frese said.

NO. 12 MARYLAND@NO. 23 MICHIGAN STATE

Thursday, 5 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

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