With injuries growing, Maryland women’s basketball’s depth seeks consistency

Forward Alaysia Styles attempts a layup during Maryland women's basketball's 86-43 win over Purdue on Jan. 10, 2021. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

It wasn’t a flashy play for Maryland women’s basketball’s newest player, Alaysia Styles, but it was a useful one. Early in the fourth quarter with the Terps on the defensive end, she helped off the weakside corner and grabbed a contested rebound, and on the other end, she hit a mid-range jumper as the shot clock expired. 

It was emblematic of Styles’ play in her first extended minutes since transferring to Maryland. The grad transfer, who finished with six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal, could be pivotal in providing some key bench minutes for a Terps team that displayed some potential depth in their blowout 83-46 victory over Purdue on Sunday. 

“There’s a big reason why we recruited Alaysia the first time to come to Maryland,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “She got smarter the second time, to be able come join us, but you see her talent. She’s a high-motor, athletic, rebounder-defender. You saw that move that she had off the bounce. She’s going to help us.”

Maryland will need Styles’ contributions now more than ever. This wasn’t a team with a lot of reliable bench players to begin with. A variety of factors, including inexperience and the circumstances surrounding Styles’ transfer, left the Terps shorthanded. Since Angel Reese’s injury in the fourth game of the year, Frese stuck to a seven-player rotation in all of Maryland’s competitive matchups. 

[Maryland women’s basketball moves up to No. 9 in latest AP poll]

One of those seven, Channise Lewis, is now out for the season. The redshirt junior suffered a torn ACL and a torn meniscus in the Terps’s victory over Michigan State. In nine games this year, she averaged 17.7 minutes, 5.1 points, and 3.4 assists per game, and was a key contributor in that backup guard role. 

“We were extremely disappointed and saddened to receive the news about Channise tearing her ACL and her meniscus, tough news for us to receive,” Frese said. “I felt like Channise was coming into form and her best shape.”

The loss reduces Frese’s options, but Styles can be an immediate salve to the hole left in the rotation. She was thrust into the rotation after Lewis’s injury, playing six first half minutes against Purdue — a first half the Terps would finish up 43-22. 

“The girls and the coaches have not made me feel out of place even in the slightest. In fact, they’ve literally brought me in with full, open arms,” Styles said. “I feel comfortable. I feel I’m breaking out of my shell little by little, faster than I thought I was going to.”

That big lead allowed Frese to get some key low-leverage minutes for redshirt freshman Zoe Young and freshman Taisiya Kozlova, something the coach was unable to do earlier in the season due to some cancelled non conference games

[Maryland women’s basketball has successfully filled the void left by Angel Reese’s injury]

Kozlova played 12 minutes and finished with four points and a pair of rebounds. However, she missed all three of her three-point attempts. 

Young, playing in just her second game this season saw similar struggles from behind the arc, missing both of her threes. She played eight minutes and scored two points, both from the foul line, adding an offensive rebound. 

“I thought they gave great minutes and as we can continue to build Zoe’s endurance, that’s going to be big for us,” Frese said. “You know [Kozlova] I thought was really really active, I mean she was all over the glass, defensively made some big plays for us so we need to continue to keep building the two of them into our rotation.”

As for the void left in the backcourt following Lewis’s injury, Frese pointed to Katie Benzan and Owusu, who will play together but may also be staggered to give different lineups a primary ball handler.

“We’re very fortunate because we have a lot of players that can play that position,” Frese said. “But obviously you’ve seen all season, I mean Katie and Ashley have been able to slide naturally in that position a ton.”

Maryland’s ability to find one or two reliable bench contributors from that mix and bolster its rotation could be pivotal. It would allow Frese to play her starters fewer minutes and possibly allow Maryland to stave off the wear and tear that comes when giving starters heavy minutes. 

“We need to continue to be able to build on those minutes to be able to kind of build that depth so we’re not having to play players through tired minutes,” Frese said.

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