When Taylor Mikesell’s first long-range make hit nothing but net, it was clear the Maryland women’s basketball guard was out of the shooting slump that plagued her last two outings.
Her 3-pointer, coming off a Delaware turnover two minutes into Sunday’s contest, proved to be a blueprint for how the game would play out. Mikesell hit four more times from deep, playing a large role in the Terps’ 44.4 percent shooting clip from three-point range.
Maryland scored at will in a dominant 99-55 victory over a winless Delaware team, with Mikesell’s resurgence perhaps the most promising part.
“I just play the game the right way, play through my teammates and know that [my shot] is going to come back to me,” Mikesell said. “It starts on the defensive end, it’s going to give us our offense, and just playing through my teammates and knowing it’s going to come back.”
A suffocating full-court trap and hot long-range shooting put the contest away within the first few minutes, and the Terps went on to play their most complete game of the season with contributions from the entire roster. Mikesell led the way with 23 points, tying a career high.
“I love where Taylor’s at right now. She’s taken great pride on both ends of the floor and understands … how we want to play,” coach Brenda Frese said. “She’s just making a ton of great plays for us. Obviously, nobody shoots the ball better than Taylor.”
Frese added forward Shakira Austin and guard Blair Watson to the starting lineup against the Blue Hens, replacing guard Diamond Miller and forward Stephanie Jones for the first new look of the season, aiming for more experience and defense to start the game.
The change paid off early as the Terps opened the game on a 20-4 run, playing inspired full-court defense and hitting open 3-pointers courtesy of Mikesell and Watson. Coming off poor shooting performances against South Carolina and James Madison — before a fourth-quarter comeback helped overcome the Dukes — Maryland looked determined to take control early against Delaware.
“You saw it in the fourth quarter at JMU, to have a team that was that far down to make that comeback to win,” Frese said. “So it’s in us, it’s just the ability to be that disciplined and that consistent all the time.”
Maryland built off its fast start and put together a nearly identical second quarter. Outside of 4-for-6 shooting from behind the arc, the Blue Hens could barely get the ball over halfcourt without a Terp stealing it for a quick score.
When Delaware did advance the ball, the Terps continued to trap its ball-handlers, causing 17 first-half turnovers and three shot-clock violations. On the other end, there was no answer for Maryland’s offensive firepower as the team hit open shot after open shot on its way to 58.3 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a team of ours … have three shot-clock violations in the first half,” Frese said. “I thought we were really locked in. I thought we took great pride on the defensive end and that defense led to our offense.”
The Blue Hens stayed aggressive in the third despite the game already being out of reach, trying to be physical on defense and causing multiple Terps to hit the deck hard in the process. But they were simply overmatched by Maryland’s size and shooting as the lead continued to grow.
Coming off its most aggressive quarter, in which it had 18 rebounds and got to the line 10 times, Maryland took its foot off the gas a bit in the final period with the game already in hand.
The defense became more lackadaisical, allowing 18 points and forcing only three turnovers as the Blue Hens got better looks. But the Terps continued to shoot well, nearly reaching triple-digit scoring for the second time this season.
The crowd chanted “One more point” in an effort to break the mark, but Maryland elected to hold the ball in the game’s final seconds, wrapping up a strong team performance in which Frese’s squad had 27 assists on 37 made shots.
“I think we just played together,” said guard Sara Vujacic, who finished with seven points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench. “Also, the alumni came to our practice [yesterday] and they talked about playing together, playing strong, being competitive, and I think that was just the turning point.”