Three takeaways from Maryland women’s basketball’s 109-67 exhibition win over Cal U

Guard Ashley Owusu goes for a lay-up in Maryland women's basketball's 109-67 win over California University of Pennsylvania on Oct. 25, 2019. (Cam Andrews/The Diamondback)

With only a six-point lead at the half, the Maryland women’s basketball team trotted into the Xfinity Center locker room Friday night frustrated by its play against California University of Pennsylvania.

Seventeen first-half turnovers were the root cause. But in the second half, the Terps looked more like themselves, taking care of the ball and scoring in bunches en route to a 109-67 victory in their first preseason action of the 2019-20 season.

Guard Taylor Mikesell led the way with a team-high 17 points, but it was an all-around effort as every player scored over five points and played at least 16 minutes.

Here are three key takeaways from the game.

Strength and size will overwhelm most opponents

The Vulcans had no player taller than 6-foot, and Maryland was able to dominate the paint on both ends. The Terps outrebounded their opponent by 24 and shot 73.8 percent from the field, with a large portion of buckets coming near the basket.

Forward Shakira Austin didn’t play much to start the game but made an immediate impact when she was on the floor, powerfully imposing her will in the post and sending shots back on the other end. While playing a team-low 16 minutes, she stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Forward Stephanie Jones started the game and finished with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes. She showcased an all-around skillset and poise when the team struggled early, as well as the ability to run the floor.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with Shakira again,” Jones said. “Me and Shakira are going to be pretty hard to stop inside, especially with her length.”

[Read more: A talented freshman class is already making waves for Maryland women’s basketball]

Guard Diamond Miller, part of Maryland’s No. 3-ranked freshman class, provided length and tenacity at the guard position. At 6-foot-3, she’s a mismatch for most college wings and was able to take advantage on the boards, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds that she frequently turned into fastbreak opportunities.

It remains to be seen if this Terps’ interior presence will be as dominant against better teams during the regular season, but it made an impression Friday night.

Perimeter defense on quick guards

Coach Brenda Frese described her team’s defensive communication as “spotty,” specifically acknowledging its struggles to keep up with Vulcans guard Monica Burns.

Burns kept her team in the game early and finished the night with a game-high 29 points and five three-pointers. At 5-foot-6, she was able to squirm her way around guards Ashley Owusu and Mikesell, often penetrating and scoring on floaters and quick moves to the rim.

“I thought [Burns] was sensational. Obviously we had no matchup for her both in our man-to-man and in our zone,” Frese said. “As we move forward, we have to have better personal pride when it comes to allowing somebody to come into our building and score 29 points, but I think we’ll be able to grow in that area.”

[Read more: After ACL tear, Maryland basketball’s Zoe Young is using this season as a “learning year”]

Guard Channise Lewis was the only real answer to Burns on the night, but the team will need to keep talented scorers like Mikesell and Owusu on the floor and defend the perimeter better if it’s to succeed against the nation’s top programs.

The freshmen are ready now

Two of Maryland’s three healthy freshmen started in Friday’s exhibition, with forward Faith Masonius providing key minutes off the bench as all three put their stamps on the game.

Owusu came out of the gate firing with her quick handle and ability to take players one-on-one. The highly touted recruit proved she can have an immediate impact on offense and in transition for the Terps.

Masonius played a game-high 25 minutes and factored into multiple facets of the game. But where she made the biggest impact was with communication. Throughout the game, she made her voice heard — whether it was calling out defensive switches or supporting her teammates. Frese highlighted Masonius’ communication as a bright spot in the win after the game.

“[The freshmen] were tremendous,” Frese said. “The moment wasn’t too big for them. I thought they just came in and played hard.”

Miller was tenacious on the glass and on defense throughout her 20 minutes. At times she was moving too fast, which led to some of her team-high five turnovers — but her effort was apparent and her length was suffocating.

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