In an all-around sloppy game for No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball against the Miami Hurricanes, it was apparent from the get-go it would come down to the wire.
The Terps had to find some sort of momentum boost to get themselves over the hump and it came from one of the more glaring weaknesses in their execution, Thursday night.
Adding to her 26 points on the night, Angel Reese converted a basket with contact underneath the rim with 1:40 left to break a tie. Her free throw was short, allowing Faith Masonius to corral the offensive board and shovel it to a wide-open Katie Benzan for three.
Like clockwork, the two returnees, who had missed the previous three games due to illness, had put the dagger in a tightly contested matchup.
“We really missed Katie and Faith’s heart and hustle,” coach Brenda Frese said. “That [play] really was huge. It gave us kind of a little bit of breathing room to be able to separate.”
Giveaways stymied the momentum on offense and a rough 25 percent from beyond the arc didn’t help matters, but with the game on the line, the Terps found the baskets they needed in a hard-fought 82-74 victory.
“Just a tremendous battle,” Frese said. “I thought we showed a lot of grit and resiliency there in the fourth quarter … We just kind of tightened things up, we guarded and we executed.”
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Both teams emerged from the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship winless in their two matches, adding extra emphasis to this installment of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Looking to avoid three straight losses for the first time since 2018, Maryland got off to a sluggish start thanks to five first-quarter turnovers. Perhaps the concentrated minutes for the shorthanded rotation in the Bahamas still had lingering effects, as the Terps failed to collect a fast break score early on.
On the contrary, Miami used its speed to break down Maryland’s defense as they took an 18-17 lead into the second. They were quick up and down the floor after most misses from the Terps, leaving Maryland’s typically solid half-court defense in disarray.
“I got to play harder,” Ashley Owusu said. Like [Frese] said, I’m the floor general so I set the tone for my team. So just being able to come out and do everything that’s needed for us to get the win.”
After the Hurricanes turned on the jets in the opening quarter, the Terps began to regain its footing. An early 7-0 run was aided by spot-on post play from Angel Reese to push Maryland in front, 26-19.
Within that stretch, Shyanne Sellers fed Reese in stride on an outlet pass on the fast break — the first such points of the contest for the Terps.
Maryland had seemingly found its rhythm, but the turnovers continued to stack up.
In just 20 minutes of play, the Terps had matched their turnover total from three of their games this season. Its nine turnovers was the mark of a frustrating half for Maryland as it entered halftime tied with Miami, 36-36.
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Out the gate, fouls on layup attempts from Reese and Owusu allowed the Terps to gain some traction from the charity stripe. Maryland cashed in on 13-of-14 from the line in the third, but even the plethora of chances couldn’t make up for the struggles on defense.
Kelsey Marshall, who scored a team-high 24 points, and Karla Erjavec hit two wide-open threes to keep the Hurricanes in it after falling behind by as much as five early in the quarter.
Marshall then added an emphatic three with 37 seconds left to take the lead into the fourth.
Miami and Maryland went back and forth in the opening half of the fourth quarter, with the Hurricanes holding the slight edge from the carry over on Marshall’s hot shooting.
But in the end, despite a season-high 16 turnovers, the Terps used a 10-2 run to end a disorganized night on a high note.
“We really wanted to challenge with toughness, we really wanted to try to get into them, we really wanted to try to frustrate them and it was working at times,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “But in the end, they stayed really, really calm and did some really smart thinking.”