Maryland women’s basketball games are starting to follow a familiar script. The Terps start slow against an unranked Big Ten opponent, but shoot just well enough to keep themselves ahead at the half by a slimmer margin than expected. Then, in the second half, they turn up the intensity and secure a victory.
That script played out against unranked Wisconsin, who kept the score close till a third-quarter run allowed Maryland to overcome its lethargic start and eke past Wisconsin for a 79-70 victory that extended its winning streak to 10 but nevertheless left the Terps feeling somewhat unsatisfied.
“I didn’t think it was one of our better efforts in game tonight,” coach Brenda Frese said.
In the third quarter, Maryland’s much-maligned defense was bright, holding the Badgers to 28.6 percent shooting. Wisconsin scored just 11 points and struggled once Maryland went to a press in the second half.
The Terps were effective on the boards, too, outrebounding Wisconsin 14-6 in the frame. Six of those boards came on the offensive glass, helping jumpstart a Terps offense that shot 41.2 percent in the third. Mimi Collins led that effort all game long, grabbing four offensive rebounds and seven total in the quarter — part of a career-high 17 rebounds Sunday afternoon.
“We really stressed [rebounding] in the timeouts. Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball, it was very uncharacteristic of how we normally shoot the basketball, so a ton of opportunities for us to fly around,” Frese said. “I thought once we were able to see that, I thought the girls did a terrific job getting second and third chance opportunities.”
Diamond Miller led the scoring charge in the third, with seven points on two shots and another pair of free throws. The sophomore knocked down a three after a Chloe Bibby offensive rebound to extend the Terps’s lead to eight.
Her teammate, Ashley Owusu, struggled for most of the game. In the first three quarters she shot just 2-of-10 from the field. But with just under eight minutes left in the fourth, the sophomore guard found life. Standing at the left edge of the three-point arc, Owusu faked a pass before moving hard towards the baseline. With a defender smothered all over her, Owusu took long strides to finish through contact and a foul.
Miller, not to be outdone, also had a fancy finish in the fourth, using an euro-step to navigate through the Badger defense. She would finish with 17 points, 13 of which came in the second half.
“She made a shot and so then she decided to guard [in the third quarter]. That’s the youth right now and Diamond continues to work through that,” Frese said. “Our defense can always be here for us, she doesn’t have to make a shot to defend. She’s trying to get there, I loved her response in the second half.”
Frese’s squad started the game 1-of-7 from the field, allowing the Badgers to jump to an early 8-2 lead. The Terps were able to respond, though, ending the first quarter up 22-15 largely due to Chloe Bibby’s play.
The forward had 16 first-half points on 6-of-10 shooting, adding in three shots from behind the arc. Bibby scored five of Maryland’s first seven field goals and was key to the Terps’ efforts at the end of the first, helping give Maryland a 39-35 lead at the break.
With just under two minutes left in the half, Bibby defended Estella Moschkau. The Wisconsin guard went hard to the paint, lowering her shoulder and bowling over Bibby, who drew the charge. A minute later, Bibby drew a foul and knocked down one of two free throws. It was emblematic of her play at both ends of the floor.
“I’m a senior, been here for a little bit, so I’m always just ready to play,” Bibby said. “When the lights come on I’m ready to play, no matter who I’m playing and I think I’ve just kept that mentality throughout these last couple games.”
Bibby’s contributions were crucial, particularly with Wisconsin hanging around. Forward Imani Lewis found holes right in the middle of the Terps’s defense, notching 12 points in the process. She was also a key rebounder, grabbing nine boards for the Badgers. Fueled by Lewis’ performance, Wisconsin stuck with the Terps in the first half.
But that second half separation was just around the corner. While in the past, the Terps had turned to their offense to pull away, it was their effort on the defensive side of the ball that made the difference. Maryland crashed the boards with renewed vigor after the break, and limited Lewis’ threat in the paint. And although the Terps continued to struggle offensively, their lead ballooned to 12.
It held steady for the fourth. Though Wisconsin made shots at a more efficient clip, Maryland matched them with just enough buckets to keep the Badgers at bay. And while Frese had to call two timeouts in the last 40 seconds to calm nerves and see out a win, the Terps saw out the game behind a strong showing from Miller to secure their 24th straight Big Ten win.
“Luckily again we’re able to get a win and be able to learn from it,” Frese said. “But we’re definitely disappointed that we know we can play a lot better.”