The Maryland women’s basketball team has faced a range of opponents this season, including winless squads and two of the nation’s top-five teams.
On Sunday, the No. 15 Terps found themselves facing a foe somewhere in the middle of that range. In the second contest of the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament, the Terps battled Miami, which had one loss and received votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The game reflected the middle ground in which Miami fell, as the Hurricanes remained close with the Terps throughout. But Maryland proved it’s one of the nation’s top teams, holding off the Hurricanes, 79-71, to notch its third straight win after a loss to No. 1 Connecticut a week ago.
“[We’re] on the road and we were able to secure a victory,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought we played hard for 40 minutes.”
In its previous two victories, Maryland (5-2) outscored Howard and Kennesaw State by 62 and 54 points, respectively. It struggled to create that separation against the Hurricanes (4-2).
The Terps opened the contest 1-for-10 from three-point range. The team’s primary sharpshooter, guard Blair Watson, missed her first five attempts from behind the arc.
Watson scored a career-high 20 points on Friday, but her slow start opened the door for guard Ieshia Small, a Miami native, to thrive. The redshirt senior scored 14 first-half points and finished with a personal-best 23 points to go along with her 10 rebounds.
She said it was great to see family, friends and more in her homecoming. More importantly to Small, it was a special experience to play well in front of them and get the victory.
“Not a lot of people go home and play in front of their families and friends and I was just honored to do that,” Small said. “I wanted to show that I’m happy where I am and we got the [win].”
Less than four minutes into the second half, Small banked in a jump shot to cap an 11-3 Maryland run to open the frame. Miami called a timeout with the Terps holding a 47-38 advantage, their largest lead at that time.
The stretch established the distance Maryland needed to secure the victory, though the Hurricanes pulled within one at the end of the third quarter. The Terps will look to win their fourth consecutive games at Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday.
For Small and guard Channise Lewis, the Terps’ second trip away from College Park was a special return home.
“[I’m] really happy to see both Ieshia and Channise, just the level they both played at,” Frese said. “And for us to be able to secure two wins, take them back home with two wins.”