For most of the year, it’s been No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball that has been clutch, making crushing threes to push itself past its opponents. Against No. 14 Ohio State, though, it was the Buckeyes who knocked down a pair of triples that ended up being the dagger to snap their 10 game winning streak and a 24 game conference winning streak. After Maryland turned the ball over twice in rapid succession, the Buckeyes wasted no time hitting two threes to take a tie game and turn it into a six point deficit with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
It ended up being too much for Maryland to overcome as Ohio State would lead the rest of the way. Despite some impressive late game exploits from guard Ashley Owusu, the Terps dropped their second game of the season, 88-86, to the Buckeyes.
“These kind of games obviously prepare us for what lies ahead come postseason,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “You know an opportunity for us with the tough road loss to be able to learn from our mistakes and be able to move on.”
The vaunted Terps offense went cold in the fourth, going just 8-of-24 in the final frame. They missed every kind of shot, threes from normally reliable shooters, layups from in close, putback attempts off offensive rebounds — all finding everywhere to go but the bottom of the bucket. They also had three key turnovers that led to seven Buckeye points.
“We had some tough turnovers in that stretch. I mean it was a five point swing, you know run-outs to layups off of shots of nobody getting back as well as turnovers,” Frese said. “So yeah I thought that was a pretty defining moment in the game. That really cost us.”
After a stellar first half, guard Katie Benzan went cold, hitting just two of her six attempts in the second. Owusu struggled as well, making just four shots in the fourth quarter and turning the ball over twice in crucial moments. It was a frustrating end to what was an otherwise electric display for the sophomore, who finished with 33 points and nine assists.
“Ashley had to play 40 minutes. So, I mean when you ask her to carry a load on both ends of the floor, we’ve got to be able to find ways to rest her and Katie to be able to give them some relief,” Frese said. “But in order to do that everybody’s got to show up and play.”
In the third quarter, with Maryland down five and Ohio State getting buckets on every possession, the Terps needed an answer to stick around. And Owusu took control, crossing over to the middle before finishing through a defender for an and-one. On the next possession, with the shot clock running down, she posted up her defender before turning around to hit a layup. Then she drove and got to the foul line, knocking down a
pair of free throws. Not finished yet, she used a hesitation dribble to get to the rim and score with just 25 seconds remaining.
Benzan would hit five threes in the first half, including one five feet behind the arc with over six minutes left in the first half to give the Terps their first lead of the night. She’d finish the game with 22 points, slowing as the Buckeyes’ defense keyed in on her threat.
It was a dominant second quarter for No. 7 Maryland, who outscored Ohio State 19-10 and went into halftime up 39-36. It did it with a stifling defensive effort, keeping the Buckeyes under 20 percent from the field and forcing six turnovers.
It was desperately needed, as Ohio State scored 26 first quarter points. The start of the game went as poorly as it could have for head coach Brenda Frese’s squad, which seemed disorganized and confused after the opening tip. Its first possession was a turnover, and they’d finish with six giveaways in the quarter, at one point going down 10 before clawing back behind Benzan’s shooting performance.
“We were disappointed with how we started the game but we just had to pick up her energy to go on our run,” Benzan said.
Late in the fourth quarter, needing a spark, the Terps forced turnovers repeatedly and hit a few threes to make the final score much closer, but it wasn’t enough. Now, Maryland looks to dust itself off and recapture the form that was so prevalent during its lengthy win streaks.
“I love the fact that we never quit, you know this team, when we were down by 9, 10 points late could have easily folded, and I thought they did a phenomenal job of playing hard for 40 minutes,” Frese said. “So you know it’s all areas, I’d rather learn in January than come March.”
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misstated that Maryland women’s basketball dropped to second in the Big Ten after its loss to Ohio State. Maryland remains in first place. This story has been updated.