Ashley Owusu has shouldered a high workload early for Maryland basketball

Guard Ashley Owusu shoots a free throw during Maryland basketball's 99-55 win over Delaware on Nov. 17, 2019. (Tyrin Gray/The Diamondback)

When guard Ashley Owusu left a Delaware defender in the dust with a spin move on a fastbreak midway through the second quarter Sunday, the Xfinity Center crowd let their appreciation for the skill be heard.

Owusu followed it up with a one-handed dime to guard Diamond Miller, who finished with an easy layup to cap the impressive sequence. It was just one of Owusu’s standout plays against the Blue Hens, a trend that’s becoming familiar in her freshman year. She finished the game with 12 points, six assists and six rebounds.

The Big Ten Freshman of the Week is currently leading an experienced and highly-touted Maryland women’s basketball team in both points and assists, tackling her first college season head-on with teammates and fans cheering every step of the way.

“She’s a bucket. You look at her and you know she’s a bucket. She’s smooth on the court, she can handle the rock and she knows how to run plays and get us into our offense,” guard Blair Watson said. “I’ll be like, ‘All right, go ahead Ash, go ahead. Do what you do. I’m going to get out of the way and I’m going to play defense for you,’ so it’s nice to have her on offense.”

[Read more: With a new starting lineup, Maryland women’s basketball broke out of its offensive mire]

The Virginia native’s transition to the next level has looked seamless. So far, she’s been the most consistent offensive weapon for the Terps, helping to carry her teammates through some early season offensive struggles.

She’s had to play a larger role than expected with guards Channise Lewis and Zoe Young both undergoing knee surgeries. Averaging over 30 minutes a game, Owusu took the challenge in stride and is a big reason Maryland is 3-1, using her ability to both create shots for herself and others.

As the lone point guard on the ninth-ranked team in the nation, Owusu’s teammates and coaches want her to continue developing into one of the team’s leaders. Whether it’s setting backcourt screens when she’s being pressed or clearing the lane for her to isolate a defender, her teammates are comfortable letting her dictate the tempo, trusting she’ll make the right decision.

“[The older players have] helped a lot. It’s been a huge adjustment, mentally and physically,” Owusu said. “It’s a lot more than I expected, but just having the support of my teammates and coaches has been good so far.”

[Read more: No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball shoots lights out in 99-55 win over Delaware]

Owusu says she patterns her game after NBA stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving, with WNBA players Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones being her favorite former Terps.

But while she’s showcased some similar skills to those stars through her array of dribble moves and diverse scoring abilities, Owusu’s biggest deficiency is at the free throw line. She’s shooting just 47.6 percent through her four games.

She recognizes her inconsistencies from the line and has refocused her pre- and post-practice efforts to help change that. A few days ago, she began a new routine of not leaving the gym until she makes 100 shots from the charity stripe, hoping the new regimen is the solution.

For the most part, though, she’s excelled in her increased role and looks to continue her success against George Washington on Wednesday.

“A lot has been placed on Ashley’s shoulders, and you can see she’s more than capable of handling it with the shot she made at [James Madison] to finish the game for us,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I think what’s kind of surprising is she’s further ahead on the defensive end. Obviously you see how dynamic she is on the offensive end, but she’s really done a nice job for our team.”

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