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3 takeaways from Maryland women’s basketball’s first-round victory over Mount St. Mary’s in the NCAA tournament

Reminders of just how dangerous this Maryland women’s basketball squad can be were on full display Monday.

The team entered the NCAA tournament in San Antonio with the top scoring offense in the nation (91.3 points per game) and surpassed that average to give intrastate rival No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s a thorough 98-45 drubbing.

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Offense flowed through a defense that not only held the Mountaineers to the lowest point total the Terps had given up all season, but forced 20 turnovers. Maryland made them pay, scoring 30 points off those mistakes.

The Terps’ corralled the perimeter like the best sentries, limiting the Mountaineers’ 3-point shooting to just 22.2% (8-for-36).

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That defense, coach Brenda Frese knows, will continue to help propel her Terps throughout the tournament.

“When our defense is clicking to our transition and the unselfishness we play with, offensively when you look at our assist to turnover ratio, they just play the right way,” Frese said. “As a coach, what more can you ask for?”

Here are three takeaways from the second-seeded Terps’ 98-45 win over 15th-seeded Mount St. Mary’s:

Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller came as advertised in the NCAA tournament.

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Sophomores Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu missed out on what should’ve been their NCAA tournament debut when the burgeoning pandemic forced the event’s cancellation in 2020.

They made good on their chance this time. Though few would expect the sophomore tandem to disappoint, Owusu and Miller impressed with a combined 31 points (22 and 19, respectively).

Both players shot well: Miller hit seven of 11 field goals, as well as all four of her free-throw attempts, while Owusu made eight of 13 shots, her lone 3-point attempt and three of four at the charity stripe.

Part of their success derived from the humble reminder Frese gave her players before the opening tip: this is still just another game.

“‘Basketball is basketball — it’s just a different court,’” Miller echoed. “That’s how we’ve been playing. We’re not gonna make this bigger than it is.”

Owusu bordered on a triple double, adding eight rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

“[I just] came in locked in and ready to play,” Owusu said. “Just doing whatever it takes for my team to win, whether that’s scoring, passing it or rebounding.”

In Frese’s opinion, the pair’s synchronicity compares with WNBA veterans Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, who played at Maryland on the 2006 championship squad.

“That’s been there all season long. It’s fun,” Frese said. “They have a great connection and they’re really good friends. You see that chemistry on the court.”

Maryland coach Brenda Frese directs her team during the first half of a a game against Mount St. Mary's in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Monday.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese directs her team during the first half of a a game against Mount St. Mary's in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Monday. (Eric Gay)

The Maryland bench is deep, and peaking at the right time.

Sure, it helps when four starters score in double digits in an NCAA tournament game. It helps when the four players on the bench come in to net 29 combined points, about a third of the team’s total.

Freshman Angel Reese (St. Frances) led the bunch with 11 points and six boards, while Faith Masonius and Taisiya Kozlova each added five points.

The crew provided much needed relief as fouls troubled Maryland’s starters early in the first quarter. The elation pouring from their teammates whenever the bench players scored — especially Kozlova’s 3-pointer towards the end — demonstrates that the team’s success comes from wanting to play for one another, in Frese’s opinion.

“Just to be able to have that luxury that you can go into halftime and nobody’s in foul trouble, that you can spread it out – our bench’s really rounded into form,” Frese said. “I can’t say enough of the experience they’ve gained throughout the season.”

Reese dominated the third quarter, hauling in more points than any other Terp in the frame with eight points.

“One thing about us – we’re 11 strong,” Miller said. “We’re just going to attack as many teams as we can. That’s why we have the depth we have, because we have so many scorers at all levels.”

Senior forward Chloe Bibby has seen the work the bench players have put in and knows their impact dates back well beyond Monday.

“It gives us so much energy. It’s just waves. We just keep hitting them. I’m really proud of them today, but not surprised,” Bibby said.

Maryland has no trouble shutting down the opposing star.

The Terps held Northwestern’s Veronica Burton to 14 points and 1-for-5 shooting from 3-point range in the Big Ten tournament, Iowa freshman star Caitlin Clark to five points in the second half in a 111-93 win over the Hawkeyes on Feb. 23 and Michigan State’s Nia Clouden to a scoreless second half in the 92-52 win on Jan. 28.

Maryland tagged the star player again Monday, holding Northeast Conference Player of the Year Kendall Bresee to five points — nearly 10 points below her season average.

It’s the same ability the Terps will need come Wednesday, facing Alabama redshirt senior guard Jordan Lewis.

Lewis poured in 32 points and shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc for the Crimson Tide on Monday against North Carolina to capture the team’s first NCAA tournament win in 22 years. She was like an oil slick in water to the Tar Heels, almost hitting a triple double with 11 rebounds and eight assists in the 80-71 victory.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Owusu said. “I’m sure we’ll talk about that [Tuesday].”

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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