Diamond Miller caught a pass on one side of the paint and finished on the other. In between, she euro-stepped between a few black-clad defenders before throwing up a left-handed layup that kissed off the glass and dropped in.
It was her dynamic performance — and a strong team defensive display — that allowed Maryland women’s basketball to extend its winning streak to eight with a 62-50 victory over Northwestern.
“Road wins are precious,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “So I’m really proud of the fight, I mean this was not an easy game for us today.”
On one of her game-defining plays, Miller read a Wildcat inbounds play from the very beginning, dashing from the free throw line to the logo before leaping and snatching the pass away.
Without breaking stride, Miller took the steal down to the other end of the court for an uncontested layup to raucous cheers from the Terps bench.
Miller added a block shortly after her steal and score, and she was also the first Terp to make a three-pointer midway through the third quarter. She finished with 17 points on 8-of-17 shooting and added 10 rebounds.
Maryland needed her contributions on the both ends of the court. The Terps offense, which was the best in the entire NCAA coming into the day in points per game and three-point field goal percentage, struggled with both.
The Terps put up their lowest scoring performance of the season and made just 2-of-13 threes on the day. Maryland was 0-of-7 from behind the arc at halftime but sported a 30-27 lead.
The team achieved that with its defense, which has continued to round into form as the season has progressed. The Terps’ zone gave the Wildcats fits offensively, limiting them to just 30.2 percent shooting for the game.
In the second half, Maryland held Northwestern to just 23 points on 25 percent shooting in a stifling defensive effort. The Wildcats scored just three points in the last three and a half minutes.
“I thought we just did a tremendous job understanding the different times when we had to have a lockdown and get a big stop,” Frese said.
Guard Lindsey Pulliam, an All-Big Ten First Team selection last season, struggled from the field. She went just 6-of-21 from the field as the Maryland defense consistently forced her into contested midrange shots.
In that first quarter, with the Terps unable to create consistent offense from behind the arc, Frese turned to an unlikely source. Faith Masonius is rarely an offensive focal point for the Terps, but she was 3-of-3 in the opening frame for six important points. Although those were her only points of the night, her hard-nosed post play set the stage for a physical affair.
Mimi Collins was also a key contributor for a stagnant Maryland offense. She grabbed 10 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds that led to second-chance opportunities. She finished with 18 points.
“I thought [Miller and Collins] were terrific today,” Frese said. “I mean just gave us the boost and the energy, double double, really every point and every rebound that we needed to have.”
The Terps have preached about their offensive balance all year, and that’s normally seen in their number of double-digit scorers. Tonight however, it was seen through the makes of unlikely scorers like Collins and Masonius.
Those performances made up for subpar nights from regular stalwarts. Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby combined for 7 points on 1-of-12 shooting while Ashley Owusu had 5 turnovers in the game, but it didn’t end up costing Maryland.
Frese’s squad showed yet another tool in its bag, the ability to play a gritty, slow-paced, low-scoring slog of a game and come out with a convincing win. The Terps’ defense only continues to improve as the season goes along, showing that even when their shots don’t fall they remain a force to be reckoned with.
“We’re just going to try to keep winning… and it was an ugly win but we’ll take it,” Miller said.