Mimi Collins’ versatility pushed Maryland women’s basketball to a victory over Rutgers

Forward Mimi Collins wrestles to keep the ball during Maryland women's basketball's 91-87 victory over Rutgers at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey on Dec. 14, 2020. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

Mimi Collins couldn’t believe the ball had gone in. Midway through the second quarter, the redshirt sophomore forward had just grabbed an offensive rebound with two Rutgers defenders draped over her.

While wrestling for control of the ball, Collins flung it up as high as she could to avoid being blocked. The ref blew a whistle, calling a foul on the Scarlet Knights.

But Collins was focused on her shot. She tracked the ball as it got to its highest point, and it dropped in cleanly for the and-one.

Collins finished the three-point play, part of a career-high 22 points in Maryland women’s basketball’s hard-fought 91-87 victory against Rutgers on Monday. Collins was instrumental in pacing a Terps team that battled inside, as she finished with four of Maryland’s 18 offensive rebounds.

“This is the X-factor she can bring to the table when she’s locked in,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “You know she can really stretch it with the way she can shoot the ball.”

[Maryland women’s basketball edges past Rutgers, 91-87 in Big Ten opener]

Collins and forward Faith Masonius were both tasked with replacing Angel Reese, who sustained a foot fracture earlier this month. In the Terps’ first game without their freshman phenom, Frese started Masonius.

But it was Collins who ended up playing the bigger role, seeing 29 minutes of action.

“My name was just called and … I did whatever I could to help the team win,” Collins said.

On a night when guard Ashley Owusu struggled — shooting just 4-of-12 — Maryland turned to Collins for offense. And with the Terps entrenched in a back-and-forth contest entering the fourth quarter, her contributions were vital.

Early in the period, Collins flashed to the free throw line and received a pass. Without hesitating, she turned and slung a two-handed bullet to a cutting Channise Lewis, who laid it in with a reverse. On Maryland’s next possession, Collins hit a three from the left corner. Less than two minutes later, she banged home another triple, this one from the opposite corner.

And Collins wasn’t finished. She caught the ball at the free throw line again about a minute later and looked for her own shot. Collins took a couple of hard dribbles to blow past her defender before laying it in.

[Maryland women’s basketball looks to offset the loss of Angel Reese against Rutgers]

It was the sort of move that epitomized Collins’ burgeoning confidence. For much of this season, she has been more passive as a scorer, but on Monday, with the Terps in need of a savior, Collins stepped up, hunting for her own shot and playing a more active role in the offense.

“Just having the ability and opportunity to exploit my matchup and to show my versatility was just an amazing feeling,” Collins said.

Her 22 points came in a variety of ways: three-pointers, drives in traffic and putbacks. Collins flashed the dynamism that made her a viable option to replicate Reese’s production.

And with Collins’ play time set to increase in the coming weeks, perhaps the redshirt sophomore will continue to establish herself as a key cog in Maryland’s offense.

“I was able to do it all. I was able to score in the midrange, I was able to drive, shoot the three,” Collins said. “It’s just me being so versatile and [coach] understanding how versatile I am.”

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