COLLEGE PARK — The ingredients for the Maryland women’s basketball program to break out of a two-game rut? Equal parts of Brenda Frese and 3-point offense.
Welcoming back their longtime coach from a six-day absence to mourn the death of her father in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the No. 12 Terps canned a season-high 18 3-pointers to overwhelm visiting Northwestern, 87-59, Sunday afternoon before an announced 4,940 at the Xfinity Center.
Five Maryland players reached double digits in scoring — a group that included graduate student shooting guard Katie Benzan’s 17 points, junior point guard Ashley Owusu’s 15, junior shooting guard Diamond Miller’s 15, freshman shooting guard Shyanne Sellers’ 14 and graduate student power forward Chloe Bibby’s 12. Their performances helped the Terps improve to 13-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten and end a two-game slide that included a 69-49 rout by No. 8 Michigan last Sunday and a 95-89 setback at unranked Ohio State on Thursday.
“I loved our effort and energy from the start today,” Frese said. “I watched the game on Thursday, and I saw the effort and the energy, which is something we need to have every day if we want to continue to build on this. We loved how it felt today.”
Frese did not coach the team in that loss to the Buckeyes because she had returned home to be with her family for a funeral for her father. William “Bill” Frese died last Sunday after a long bout with prostate cancer.
Owusu acknowledged that Frese’s presence on the sideline and in the locker room provided a jolt of adrenaline.
“It’s a big difference,” said Owusu, who added six assists. “She’s our head coach, she’s the leader of this team. When you miss a big energy and a big person like that, it’s different. Love having her back and just being able to play team ball.”
After first-quarter deficits of 26-16 against the Wolverines and 25-15 at the Buckeyes, Maryland shot 63.6% (7-of-11) from the floor, including 57.1% (4-of-7) from 3-point range, en route to an 18-14 lead at the end of the opening frame against Northwestern.
“It was a point of emphasis for us coming off of those past two games,” said Benzan, who compiled five rebounds and five assists. “We want to punch first in every game and in every quarter. Those two games, we didn’t do that. So in this one, we really concentrated on being the first one to the ground, being the first one to score, just all the firsts.”
By halftime, the Terps buried eight 3-pointers — three more than their total against Michigan and just one shy of their total against Ohio State — and raced to a 39-23 advantage. The team finished the game making 58.1% (18-of-31) of its shots from behind the line, and the 18 3-pointers were the most since last year’s squad drained a school-record 21 in a 112-78 dismantling of Towson on Dec. 3, 2020.
It was a welcome display for an offense that looked stuck in neutral. Frese pointed to a stat in which the Terps assisted on 24 of their 30 successful field goals.
“That’s the way we want to play; that’s Maryland basketball,” she said. “I thought we were really smart kicking it out and moving the ball to get really great shots. So we’re moving the needle in that area.”
The Terps limited Northwestern senior point guard Veronica Burton, the team’s leader in points, assists and steals, to a season low-tying nine points, six assists and zero steals. In fact, no player for the Wildcats (11-7, 3-4) reached 10 points.
After allowing Wolverines junior shooting guard Maddie Nolan to score 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range and Buckeyes senior shooting guard and former Terp Taylor Mikesell to drop 33 points on 11-of-13 shooting, including a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, Maryland’s perimeter defense gave up only five 3-pointers in 20 attempts to Northwestern.
“That’s the sign of a team that’s really trying to improve in that area and quite honestly an area that we’ve got to get a lot better at,” Frese said. “Terrific response. I thought we did a much better job of being able to match up.”
Wildcats coach Joe McKeown said matching up with Maryland’s size proved difficult without 6-foot-3 freshman forward and second-leading scorer Caileigh Walsh, who was out with an unspecified ailment.
“We’re missing our second-leading scorer tonight, Caileigh Walsh, who is one big post player that can score down low,” he said. “So our options inside were taken away by their size. We probably rushed some threes where we could’ve gotten better shots at times, but I thought most of them were pretty good looks, and you’ve got to make them. If you want to beat Maryland, you’ve got to make them.”
RUTGERS@NO. 12 MARYLAND
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Stream: Big Ten Network Plus
Radio: 105.7 FM