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No. 2 Maryland women’s basketball routs No. 15 Mount St. Mary’s, 98-45, advances to second round of NCAA tournament

If there was ever a question as to which women’s basketball team reigns supreme in the state of Maryland, it was answered Monday afternoon in San Antonio.

No. 2 seed Maryland cruised to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 98-45 thrashing of No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s, which hails just 68 miles away from College Park in Emmitsburg.

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The Terps (25-2) fell two points shy of eclipsing 100 points for the seventh time this season. The Mountaineers’ 45 points are the fewest Maryland has allowed this season, and, according to the Big Ten Network, the 53-point margin of victory is the largest in the NCAA tournament for any Terps men’s or women’s basketball team.

“I actually didn’t know that. I’m sure my teammates will be happy when I tell them that,” sophomore Ashley Owusu said. “It feels great to be a part of that, especially with this group of girls.”

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The Terps next face No. 7 seed Alabama, which bested No. 10 seed North Carolina, 80-71, earlier in the day, on Wednesday.

After the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament, sophomores Owusu and Diamond Miller made their mark in their first appearance on the national stage with 22 and 19 points, respectively.

“I thought they played like they have all season. They didn’t make it bigger than what it should be,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “For them to come out with that mentality continues to show you their confidence.”

Three other Terps surpassed double digits: senior Chloe Bibby had 11 points and 11 rebounds, redshirt sophomore Mimi Collins added 12 points and freshman Angel Reese (St. Frances) chipped in 11.

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Maryland shot 52.3% from the field while holding Mount St. Mary’s (17-7) to 24.6% shooting, including 8-for-36 from 3-point range. Though four of the Terps starters faced no trouble scoring, the bench players contributed 29 points.

When bench players hit those baskets, whoever stood on the side erupted in cheer.

“Everyone’s reaction shows how much we love each other, and how much we want each other to be successful,” Owusu said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”

No Mount player eclipsed double digits, with Michaela Harrison, Aryna Taylor and Bridget Burkhead all finishing with eight points.

Frese looks upon her 2021 squad and can’t help but be reminded of her 2006 team that won it all. Bibby told Frese she’d never seen the 2006 trophy, so the coach brought the team to see the product of past glory before heading to San Antonio.

The longtime Maryland coach sees similarities in the two squads’ unselfishness.

“We talked about how difficult it is. You have to take one game at a time and play to your standard,” Frese said. “The ’06 [title] was the very first, but I think this year, the team to come out on top through a pandemic is going to speak for itself.”

Early on, Mount. St. Mary’s roared to the floor ready to compete with the team from the much bigger school to the south.

The Mountaineers drove the Terps to three early turnovers, even rushing ahead to beat Owusu in transition — a feat few players in America can claim. Whenever the Terps gained an inch, Mount St. Mary’s replied with a bucket of its own to keep within a handful of points.

But after entertaining the Mountaineers at their flank, Maryland got up to old tricks and embarked on its usual rally-smothering run: the Terps scored eight straight in the last two minutes of the first quarter and led 28-18.

“When we started, it looks like we had a bit of rust, jitters. I think a lot of that was Mount St. Mary’s came in fearless,” Frese said. “Once we settled in, especially when you look at the second quarter, I thought we were really able to get into a great rhythm from there.”

Maryland’s superior shooting kept them afloat; though the Terps took fewer chances, they shot 7-for-17 (41.2%) compared with Mount St. Mary’s 29.4% in the first quarter.

The Terps anchored at the free-throw line, shooting a nearly perfect 12-for-13 in the first frame, and would continue to take advantage of Mount St. Mary’s mishaps. Maryland went 25-for-30 at the charity stripe overall and didn’t commit a foul through most of the first and second quarters.

By the second quarter, Maryland flipped the ignition on its steamroller. It permitted the Mountaineers the first punch — one basket — and then enacted an even more crushing 18-0 run stretching six minutes. By the end of the half, Maryland had left its intrastate rival so far behind — 53-22 — it was as if it was already looking ahead to its next opponent.

The Terps outscored the Mount 25-4 in the second quarter — the fewest points allowed in a quarter by Maryland this season, and just two shy of the NCAA tournament record — partially because of a gaping absence in the Mountaineers’ lineup. Taylor, the Mount’s top scorer at the time with eight points, left the floor with three fouls and didn’t return until the second half.

“I thought we were aggressive. We continued to be in attack mode the entire game,” Frese said. “We were unselfish, continuing to make plays for each other. I thought we ran hard in transition and really put the heat on a Mount St. Mary’s defense.”

Defense likewise swallowed up Northeast Conference Player of the Year Kendall Bresee, who averaged 14.1 points per game this season but missed all seven of her first-half attempts (and finished with just five points).

With the Mountaineers gasping for air, several Terps got in on the action: Reese, who sat the first half, led all scorers in the third quarter with eight points, driving Maryland to an overwhelming 75-33 lead.

The Terps feasted on Mount St. Mary’s mistakes, scoring 30 points off the Mountaineers’ 20 turnovers.

Mount St. Mary’s coach Maria Marchesano complimented Maryland’s athleticism and transition game.

“Anybody that averages [91.5 points per game], you have an opportunity to beat anybody in the tournament,” Marchesano said. “I know a lot of people have them going all the way, especially at least the Final Four. I think that they’re an extremely dangerous team.”

NCAA women’s tournament second round

NO. 2 MARYLAND VS. NO. 7 ALABAMA

San Antonio

Wednesday, 1 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

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