After Wooden Award Top-20 finalist Ashley Owusu went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter, Maryland women’s basketball had to call for reinforcements in a tough road matchup against Michigan State.
The environment at the Breslin Center was the perfect backdrop for ending the No. 17 Terps’ win streak, but the injury to Owusu unleashed the phenomenal end-to-end play of freshman Shyanne Sellers.
Sellers tallied nine points and four steals across 35 minutes, her most game time since Nov. 27, against Stanford. She filled in well for Katie Benzan and Faith Masonius then and she filled in well for Owusu Thursday.
“My teammates put me in a really good position to be successful,” Sellers said. “We were down a body, but we’ve been there before, so it wasn’t anything new for me. I just had to step up and play my part.”
The Spartans made many attempts to chip away at Maryland, but the defense of Sellers was too suffocating. In the third quarter, with the home team cutting its deficit to six, Sellers intercepted a pass from Nia Clouden. Sellers then led the fast break, firing an in-stride bounce pass to Diamond Miller for the bucket.
With more adversity coming its way in the form of Owusu’s potential injury, Sellers and the Terps continued to show their resiliency this season as the team flexed its muscles on both ends of the court to escape East Lansing with a 67-62 victory.
“I thought this group didn’t blink,” coach Brenda Frese said. “They knew they were gonna have to play heavy minutes and it was a physical contest and they didn’t feel sorry for themselves.”
Maryland looked the part in the early going. The offense played with patience while the defense did a good job containing Michigan State’s ball movement. Miller and Angel Reese were the standouts in the first quarter, scoring five and seven points, respectively.
Despite looking cohesive on the defensive end early, extra passes from the Spartans eventually caught up to the Terps — this time the victim was Benzan out of the media timeout.
After taking a 15-8 lead, Maryland saw an up-tempo approach from Michigan State with just over five minutes gone by. A swing pass out of the corner from DeeDee Hagemann to Matilda Ekh led to an and-one three-pointer, which awoke the Spartan crowd.
It was a tough blow for a team playing some solid all-around basketball, but the momentum shift was all a mirage and the two teams went back-and-forth without a make for the next 2:32.
Michigan State’s Alisia Smith broke the slump, but the Terps got their bearings back on the next possession with a lay-in by Owusu. As the ball fell through the net, however, Owusu was down on the floor in pain, eventually being helped off the court without putting any weight on her right ankle.
Sellers was tapped to fill in the open frontcourt spot, performing well on both ends down the stretch of the first quarter and into the second. The freshman scored Maryland’s final four points of the opening quarter before shifting her focus to the defensive end.
Sellers was instrumental in containing the Spartans’ outside game with tremendous reads on swing passes and solid on-ball work. She even delivered a highlight-reel play in the quarter as she laid out to save the ball from going out of bounds.
“I love what confidence Shyanne comes in,” Reese said. “She’s been playing very confident lately and she stepped in and played her role today.”
Entering halftime up 32-25, Maryland’s defense was the story as Michigan State tallied its lowest first half total of the season. Additionally, the Terps had committed just three turnovers to the Spartans’ 10.
Michigan State faced a manageable deficit despite Maryland playing a stellar first half. They kicked off the third on a 7-2 run, but Miller was able to stifle the Spartans’ momentum with a coast-to-coast lay-in.
More offensive board work from Reese kept Michigan State at bay before Benzan drilled her second three of the game to reestablish the momentum in the visitor’s favor, putting them up 43-34.
While Chloe Bibby and Sellers converted on consecutive and-ones late in the third, it was the sharpshooting of Clouden that dominated the quarter. The First Team All-Big Ten honoree knocked down five threes in the quarter, including a running bank shot at the buzzer.
Entering the fourth up 54-47, Frese’s squad had to gain some separation. But Clouden continued to step up.
The senior drilled another three-pointer at the 2:29 mark to cut the deficit to two. After trading free throws, the Terps held the ball until the waning seconds of the shot clock, allowing Reese to back down her defender and give her team a four-point cushion with 26 seconds remaining.
Ultimately, Maryland held strong down the stretch thanks to a 25-point performance from Reese.
“Just great toughness by this team,” Frese said. “You talk about the adversity we faced coming in the day of the game, losing Ashley in the second quarter. I thought we were great as a team on both ends of the floor.”