With 15 seconds left in the third quarter, senior forward Diamond Miller waved off her teammates. She then drove right, reversed with a behind-the-back dribble and drained an arching three as the buzzer sounded.
Miller had a career-high 32 points and 10 rebounds Sunday at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, in No. 19 Maryland women’s basketball’s 73-68 win over No. 17 Baylor. After playing just 11 minutes last year when the two sides met because of a knee injury, the projected lottery pick starred in front of several WNBA scouts who made the trip to watch her.
The New Jersey native had three turnovers in the first quarter but went off for 12 points in both the second and third and added seven in the fourth. Miller wove, cut and slipped past Baylor’s defense all afternoon. Maryland needed all of her offense; senior guard Abby Meyers was the only other double-digit scorer with 13 points and 10 boards.
“I needed a pause — my emotions were high,” Miller said of her early giveaways. “I was really excited for this game.”
Maryland (4-1) Coach Brenda Frese recently talked about how her team has been trying to build cohesion after incorporating nine new faces onto the roster. Sunday marked a backward step in that process as the team looked disjointed early.
“It’s still taking us some time with that chemistry,” Frese said. “I think probably some nerves and excitement tonight from the jump, but again, I love the response. Every game we come out, way too many turnovers, but we were able to respond.”
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The Terps were careless with the ball and committed 19 turnovers, including seven in the first quarter. But Maryland took a 10-point advantage into the half because of dreadful Baylor (3-1) shooting; the hosts went 9-for-40 from the field and 1-for-17 from three through two frames.
But a quick Jaden Owens three to start the third, followed by a Sarah Andrews’ pull-up two and layup, forced a timeout.
“Baylor did a great job coming out punching at halftime and really taking away that lead,” Frese said.
The Bears played without star guard Aijha Blackwell, who is averaging 14 points through three games and missed the contest with a lower leg injury.
Even though Maryland led by as many as 14 points and held the advantage for nearly 29 minutes, Baylor hung around, primarily because of Andrews.
“She’s terrific,” Frese said of Andrews. “She’s a tremendous scorer. So she can shoot, she can hit the three when she really gets going, and then she’s so hard to guard downhill. She’s able to make a lot of great plays as an offensive player.”
After missing all seven of her tries from three in the first half, Andrews hit four of seven in the second to keep her side within striking distance. And while she picked up the scoring slack, the rest of the team struggled to contribute.
Outside of her team-high 25 points, only one other player scored above 10 points. Freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double.
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But just as Baylor looked to feed Andrews, Maryland did the same with their stalwart. Whether on the perimeter or inside, Miller was the primary option on the attack.
“She’s a whole another competitor,” Meyers said of Miller. “You can’t really stop her because she has her up and under, and she can finish anyway around the rim … she’s definitely a lethal weapon that any person wants to have on their team.”
Lacking interior height to match Baylor’s bigs, the Terps got graduate forward Caitlin Bickle, who had been a force in the paint for the Bears, hitting 5-7 shots, to foul out in the fourth.
With Bickle stuck on the sideline, Meyers and Faith Masonius grabbed two late offensive rebounds to give Maryland a lengthy possession and disrupt the Bears’ offensive momentum.
And after a four-minute review after the ball went out of bounds, the Terps retained possession. With the seconds ticking away, Baylor fouled Miller thrice. The senior calmly walked to the free-throw line and hit one of two to give her side a five-point lead they did not relinquish.
“What separates Diamond when you talk about just her ability to put the ball in the basket and [she] wants that responsibility on her shoulders,” Frese said.