Nobody on the Maryland women’s basketball team has played more minutes than season than guard Destiny Slocum.
The freshman had started every game of her freshman season entering Wednesday’s contest against Wisconsin and averaged 29.6 minutes, about a minute more than any of her teammates. She has more than a quarter of the team’s assists this season and is its third-leading scorer.
After participating in shootaround Wednesday, however, Slocum “fell ill,” coach Brenda Frese said, and was unavailable for the contest. The Meridian, Idaho, native wasn’t even in Xfinity Center during the game, instead resting in her apartment.
Despite playing without Slocum’s production and energy, the Terps dominated the Badgers from start to finish. The team relied on its seniors and defense early to make up for Slocum’s absence in the 89-40 win.
“There was a different feel, because we were missing our starting point guard,” guard Kaila Charles said. “But I feel like we all stepped up to the plate as a team to make up for that. So I didn’t think it took us long to get a rhythm.”
It was just the second time this season Frese has changed her starting lineup, the other coming Jan. 14 against Iowa, when guard Ieshia Small started in place of guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Small took Slocum’s place in the starting five Wednesday, too, but the team didn’t seem to need an adjustment period.
Maryland stole the ball on the Badgers’ first two possessions and opened up a 5-0 lead when Walker-Kimbrough drained a 3-pointer about two minutes after tipoff.
Wisconsin didn’t score a point until their 12th possession, more than six minutes into the game. The Terps had a 16-0 lead, had three steals and one block at that point.
“It started with our seniors, it started with our defense,” Frese said. “We were ready to play.”
Walker-Kimbrough and center Brionna Jones, the team’s only seniors, scored the team’s first 11 points and 13 in the team’s 16-0 run to start the game. They combined for five rebounds, two steals and a block in the first quarter.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Our defense led to our offense with our steals and just getting stops on D [and] pushing to our transition.”
Wisconsin trailed, 18-5, after the opening period. The opening sequence was another example of consistency Badgers coach Jonathan Tsipis said he had noticed while watching film ahead of the matchup.
“I don’t think it matters who’s out on the floor,” Tsipis said. “They understand who they are.”
Guard Blair Watson also saw increased playing time with Slocum missing from the rotation, playing 21 minutes after averaging less than four in the team’s first 13 conference games. Watson scored 10 points, swishing a pair of 3-pointers.
“I’m not surprised, Blair had a really good practice and played really confident,” Frese said. “Again, the energy from our vets for her was really strong.”
The drive and production from the Terps against Wisconsin during Slocum’s first career absence didn’t surprise either team’s coach.
“You take a snapshot of a lot of different games, maybe it’s in a hostile environment or there’s a run the other team’s made, and they just don’t seem rattled,” Tsipis said. “Shatori and Brionna don’t seem to get rattled with things.”
“Somebody goes down, we’re all going to pick up the slack together. Nobody has to do it by themselves,” Frese added. “When you have great leadership like we have, they set the tone out of the gate in terms of how we’re going to play tonight.”