COLLEGE PARK — After three straight nail-biters to begin Big Ten Conference play, the No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball team needed a crushing victory to recharge its morale.
And this year, when the Terps want something, they work hard to get it.
Maryland (9-1, 5-0) won its eighth straight game overall and 22nd in a row in the conference, making a snack out of Purdue, 83-46, at Xfinity Center and allowing the fewest points by an opponent this year. The Boilermakers (5-4, 2-3) shot 24.1% from the field, the lowest mark of any Big Ten opponent against Maryland in program history.
After a patch of pandemic-related postponements and cancellations earlier in the season, Maryland is riding a bit of luck, playing its third game in seven days. As physical as its previous two games were, coach Brenda Frese credited her team’s voracious hunger for competition, refusing to relax even a little bit even though Purdue, unlike its previous two opponents, is unranked.
“I love the fact that we never let up. We took the challenge. Where we’ve gotten these big leads and kind of let them go, it’s great that you can challenge this team, ‘cause they’re so competitive, to want to get better in every aspect of the game and we were able to do that today,” Frese said.
Four Maryland players scored in double figures, led by sophomore Ashley Owusu, who continued to display leadership uncommon for a player her age with 19 points and nine assists. Sophomore Faith Masonius led her Terps teammates in rebounds with 10.
Except for strong play from Owusu, Diamond Miller (who finished with 16 points) and Mimi Collins, the Terps left space for improvement with their first-quarter performance.
Maryland failed to hit from beyond the arc in its first five chances, uncharacteristic for that averaged 8.8 3-pointers a game and set a Big Ten and program record with 21 earlier this season. The Terps would only have six 3s on 22 tries by game’s end. However, that total doesn’t seem to concern Frese.
“You just find different ways to attack,” she said.
The effectiveness of Maryland’s defense allowed for plenty of room to figure that out. Purdue, still waiting to record its first win in 2021, struggled to get on track. The Boilermakers made their first field goal with less than half the quarter left and managed only one more before the buzzer sounded, capping off Maryland’s best defensive performance in a quarter this season and giving the Terps a 16-6 lead.
“Offense wasn’t necessarily 100%, but we created our offense through our defense,” Owusu said.
The defense’s success boiled down to pure effort, driven by pride after allowing a player — Nia Clouden (St. Frances) — to score a career-high 32 points Thursday in the Terps’ 93-87 win over No. 23 Michigan State.
“We already know what kind of offensive team we are,” Frese said. “So when you talk about on the defensive end, when we can put that together on both ends of the floor, it makes us a very dangerous team.”
Second-quarter foul trouble has exiled Miller to the bench repeatedly the past two months, limiting the bulk of her offensive impact to the second half. On Monday, she shook off that trend.
Early in the quarter, Miller hit back-to-back 3s to lead Purdue to call timeout and put Maryland on an 8-0 run. She led Maryland with 12 points in the half.
Purdue struggled to improve significantly enough on offense to compete. Though the Boilermakers shot 29.4% in the quarter, 16 points would not be enough to keep up with a Maryland team that took a 43-22 advantage into halftime. The Boilermakers’ 22 points were the fewest allowed by Maryland since the Terps held Minnesota to 19 on March 1.
It did not matter that the Boilermakers cleaned up their shooting (36.4%) in the third quarter. So long as Maryland remained consistent, Purdue could never claw out of the hole it dug itself littered with missed baskets and long scoring droughts.
Owusu, dubbed by Frese her “floor general,” eclipsed Miller in the third quarter, pouring in nine points while commanding her teammates’ movements on the court.
“I thought we had great intensity, even in the third quarter, when we had a little bit of a lapse, we had the timeout and they really responded with that [run],” Frese said.
Senior guard Katie Benzan made three third-quarter 3-pointers, and Purdue couldn’t muster a response. Maryland rode a 17-0 run to a 69-36 lead going into the fourth quarter.
With much of their starting lineup resting, the Terps cruised the remainder of the game. Frese complimented freshmen Taisiya Kozlova and Zoe Young, who had the chance to earn quality minutes along with new graduate transfer Alaysia Styles.
Styles, who earned her first six points as a Terp in her second appearance with the team, is quickly finding her footing.
“Everyone plays with such high intensity, everyone cares, everyone is motivated, and that has raised my ability and confidence. For that, it makes basketball easy,” said Styles, who played three seasons at California. “Practicing has become so natural. ... Being on the court is a reward, almost. I enjoyed it. It was fun. Everything’s coming to me and clicking, and I’m grateful to be here with these people.”
Before their first home game since the Wednesday attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead, Young and Styles, knelt during the national anthem. They were joined by two assistant coaches — interim assistant coach Lindsey Spann and assistant coach Kaitlynn Fratz — and one support staffer, director of scouting and player development Jessica Imhof. The move echoed that of the Terps men, who took a knee at midcourt alongside Iowa players Thursday.
The Maryland women spoke about the attack as a team before their game Thursday.
“As a team and program, it’s disappointing,” Frese said of the attack. “We understand what we saw isn’t what’s representative of our country. From our end, we want to continue to make awareness, especially how united we are and staying united as a country.”
NO. 12 MARYLAND@MINNESOTA
Thursday, 6 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network