No. 2 seed Maryland’s 100-point statement will certainly send waves across the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
The Terps are not to be trifled with.
“They’re rolling like an NBA team,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “When they play at that level for a long time, you just want to watch it all unfold.”
It was the Terps’ second straight blowout after they drubbed Mount St. Mary’s on Monday, 98-45. That doesn’t necessarily spell a series of routs in the future as the competition continues to rise, starting with a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 6 seed Texas on Sunday night.
Frese won’t consider this season a failure if Maryland doesn’t ride all the way to capturing the national championship. But that doesn’t mean she and her Terps don’t want it: they’ll keep on playing with a “championship mentality.”
“We know every round gets harder, every team we’re going to face. Now, the 16 best teams are left,” Frese said. “That would do a disservice to these teams cause there’s so many great teams out there. But I love where we’re at. I love where we’re playing. We’re going to keep emptying the tank and giving the best 40 minutes.”
Here are three takeaways from the Terps’ 100-64 win Wednesday over seventh-seeded Alabama:
Angel Reese sure is feeling better.
When freshman Angel Reese returned earlier than expected from her right foot fracture Feb. 23, sometimes she defied her injury to play to her full ability, such as scoring a team-high 17 points against Purdue. Some days, others stood in the spotlight.
On Wednesday, Reese felt like her true self again, comfortable and trusting in her coaches and teammates to guide her toward reaching her potential.
“The game is just falling into my hands,” said Reese, the former St. Frances star. “I’m feeling really confident right now, and that’s what’s helping me now. I feel like I am back. This was one of my best games.”
Reese averaged 17 points entering the doomed Towson game, in which she took a bad fall early on. Currently, she’s averaging 10.7. Against Northwestern on Feb. 28, she netted four points, and in the following game against Michigan, she had five.
But in recent games, the talented young freshman who missed almost an entire season of development is showing precisely why she was rated the nation’s No. 2 recruit. In the penultimate game of the Big Ten tournament, Reese dropped 10 points on Northwestern. Against Mount St. Mary’s on Monday, Reese netted 11 points in just 10 minutes.
There’s no denying that Reese felt good Wednesday as she stormed to 19 points, one shy of her career high. She felt good every time she got the chance to guard another guard. The 6-foot-3 freshman always wants to take the ball away from them, using all that height against those beneath her.
She said everyone on her side can do that right now, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.
“Our defense has tightened up and should be respected much more now,” Reese said.
Reese’s brother Julian watched his sister play back in Baltimore, where the future freshman for the Maryland men’s team helped lead St. Frances over Mount Carmel in the Baltimore Catholic League semifinals on Wednesday night.
“That’s a good feeling, especially going down there [to College Park],” Julian Reese said. “She can help me with the college [level] because she’s more experienced than me, and guide me along the way.”
Teams haven’t figured out how to shut down Mimi Collins in the first quarter.
Redshirt freshman Mimi Collins has been the top threat in nearly every first quarter for weeks.
Alabama became the latest in a long line of teams to let the Waldorf native roll all over them during the first 10 minutes. Collins posted the first nine points of the game to spur the Terps toward their 30-9 lead at the end of the quarter. She went on to net 13 by game’s end.
Collins isn’t surprised that no one’s been able to stop her in the first quarter, but it’s not because every opponent’s defense is inferior.
“You got to worry about all 11 of us,” Collins said.
The guards have their hands full with covering sophomores Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller, who have no trouble storming downhill to score if defenses let them. Then, the bigs are preoccupied with corralling shooters like Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby.
“Just being surrounded by great teammates who just score and open up the floor for me — I’m just proud,” Collins said.
Collins took a year off after transferring from Tennessee, and she thinks that’s led to her success now.
“I’m grateful … to be able to take two steps back, focus on myself, focus on my teammates and make me be a better person,” Collins said. “It just shows. I have a whole year under my belt to learn Coach B and her system. Having the whole year off made everything better, as you can tell.”
Maryland has the kind of depth other teams ought to fear.
It’s not an accident Maryland has accrued seven 100-point outings this season. According to the Big Ten Network, that’s the third most in a season by a men’s or women’s basketball team in school history.
That doesn’t happen without a deep bench.
Maryland’s five starters accounted for 54 of the Terps’ 100 points Wednesday, but the bench came in for the other 46. Reese starred in that effort with her 19 points, but sophomore Faith Masonius came in nearly as hot, scoring a career-high 16 points. Senior Alaysia Styles contributed eight and Taisiya Kozlova swooped in to hit the 3-pointer that sent Maryland to 100 points.
“I think we’d be difficult for scout. You can’t game plan. Which players would you pick?” Frese said. “That’s what this team has learned, through their balance, by them playing the right way and the unselfishness, it would be extremely difficult. We just continue to … figure out how to keep playing for each other, and make teams figure out how to stop us.”
Baltimore Sun Media reporter Kyle J. Andrews contributed to this story.