Maryland women’s basketball forward Brianna Fraser missed Wednesday’s contest against Mount St. Mary’s with an injured ankle, putting pressure on others to produce off the bench.
Guard Ieshia Small responded with 21 points in a 97-57 victory, continuing to serve as the team’s most consistent substitute this season.
Small’s elevated role could continue Friday with Fraser’s status unclear for Maryland’s contest against George Washington.
“We keep saying, when someone goes down or when different elements happen, next man up,” coach Brenda Frese said. “[Small] did a really nice job with that.”
Despite coming off the bench in every game this season, Small averages the second-most points per game (12.8) and third-most minutes per game (26.1) on the team, highlighting her integral role for the No. 15 Terps (8-2).
Her 21 points on Wednesday were the second-most of the season after putting up 23 at Miami on Nov. 26. Small has reached double figures six times this year.
Against Miami, Small made seven field goals, six of which were jump shots. Normally functioning as that type of mid-range shooter, Small took more chances down low in her new role Wednesday, with four of her 10 field goals coming closer to the basket.
“What Ieshia is now able to do, kind of sliding for us, has been huge, and that’s something we really like that she’s been able to provide,” Frese said. “I can’t say enough when you look at Ieshia’s stat line tonight, how flawless it was.”
Frese called Small’s performance “near perfection” and said the redshirt senior is letting the game come to her and in whatever capacity the Terps need her.
That came in Fraser’s stead Wednesday. Fraser averages 9.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in more than 21 minutes per game. While the Terps didn’t have a like-for-like replacement for her production off the bench, Small filled that void.
Small — who transferred from Baylor and is in her second season with Maryland — took a deep sigh when asked about what has changed since her first year, when she averaged 14.7 minutes and 5.1 points per game.
“My basketball IQ is 10 times better from last year,” Small said. “My teammates do a great job helping me get through with these supposedly 20-point games, but the points don’t matter. What matters to me is if we win.”
Small is also one of the team’s more charismatic players. It showed on Wednesday when asked whether she thinks having a shallow bench — the Terps had just three substitutes with Fraser missing Wednesday’s game — could hinder the Terps if the forward is out any longer.
“Of course not, there’s a lot of leg room,” Small joked. “A lot of space on that bench.”
As the media laughed and the players got up to leave the press conference, Small raised her index and middle finger to form a peace sign and exclaimed “Eesh out!”