Maryland women’s basketball needed an answer. Its usually high-powered offense had gone cold, its tally on the scoreboard not changing in over four minutes. Ashley Owusu confidently stepped into a mid-range jumper, but this one missed.
But Angel Reese was there to clean up the mess. Reese, who positioned herself perfectly, grabbed the offensive rebound, then faked a spin and finished with a swarm of Purdue defenders surrounding her.
It was the effort the Terps needed in a slow-paced game where they fought to extend possessions, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds en route to an 88-59 victory over the Boilermakers.
“To be a championship team … to have that inside-outside combination and that depth is huge,” coach Brenda Frese said.
Maryland struggled offensively early on, shooting just 41.2 percent in the first quarter and 45 percent in the first half. Purdue also limited the Terps from getting into transition, as Frese’s squad registered just six fastbreak points in the first half.
That forced Maryland to play a style it hasn’t used much so far this season, grinding away down low. It outrebounded Purdue, 24-18, in the first half and continued to dominate, finishing with a 24-rebound advantage for the entire game, gaining extra possessions by doing so.
“It was a collective, everybody kind of played their role,” Frese said. “And when you look at just our size right there … we should be able to make that kind of impact on the glass every single night.”
The Terps also played a sound defensive game, forcing 18 turnovers and limiting Purdue to just 38.6 percent shooting from the field.
Reese was part of that effort in limited playing time. In her second game back from injury, she saw 19 minutes of action and was extremely effective in that time. Reese scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added three blocks.
She showed flashes of why she was the nation’s No. 2 recruit, knocking down a buzzer-beating three at the end of the first quarter while dominating down low, snagging rebound after rebound that led to easy scoring chances.
Reese’s play picked up substantially in the third quarter. She played five minutes, scored seven points on perfect shooting, grabbed four rebounds and added a block to the stat sheet.
But the Boilermakers had a counter early on. Maryland struggled with Fatou Diagne in the first half, as the 6-foot-4 center scored 11 points and secured eight rebounds. In the third quarter, though, Reese played more minutes against her, and Diagne was limited to just one point.
“I still have a lot of work to do, offensively and defensively, especially defensively,” Reese said. “But I’m happy to be back to my team and contributing as much as I can.”
And the Terps’ offense picked it up a bit in the second half. Mimi Collins and Diamond Miller combined for 29 points, going 3-of-3 from behind the arc. The two were a reliable source of offense, those contributions made all the more critical with Owusu’s rare struggles.
Owusu shot 6-of-16 from the field for 13 points, her lowest mark since scoring 11 points against Minnesota in January. Her jump shot seemed to be off the mark all night, including one airball from her favored midrange spot.
“They were trying to stop all the guards, they were trying to deny, and keep on denying,” Collins said. “And everything was open … everything was just working for us.”
Nevertheless, it was another comfortable win for Maryland as it continues a grueling homestretch. The most encouraging sign was the play of Reese, whom the Terps could turn to as an X-factor the rest of the way.
“I think the team has been rolling without me, and I’m just gonna pick up where I left off and add to whatever they need to add to in the long run,” Reese said. “Our main goal is to win a national championship.”