On what would have been Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese’s 600th career win, the Terps let a halftime lead slip away in their Big Ten opener against a Nebraska team that just three days prior had suffered a 31-point loss to Virginia Tech.
The Cornhuskers outscored Maryland 30-11 in the fourth quarter and made 12 threes throughout the game. The Terps’ defensive issues prompted Frese to say after the game Sunday that Nebraska exposed her team in “every way possible.”
The Maryland defense struggled with foul trouble — the 21 personal fouls tied for second most of the young season. Diamond Miller, Abby Meyers and Brinae Alexander each had four fouls as none played more than 28 minutes.
Miller sat the entire second quarter because of foul trouble, shooting just 3-12 from the field.
“Our best goal was to try to just make things as difficult as we could,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “We tried to run secondary help defenders and try to build a wall, keep [Miller] out of the paint. She’s just so dangerous and so crafty, and I thought it was a team effort to try to slow her.”
Miller’s struggles have mirrored Maryland’s.
The Terps are 7-2 when she has played — she missed the South Carolina loss with an injury. But in those two defeats, Miller averaged 12 points, well below her season average of 18.6, and shot 6-for-24 from the field with nine fouls.
“It really hurts when [Miller] had to sit that second quarter, when [Alexander] gets in foul trouble,” Frese said.
She also noted the importance of Alexander, a transfer from Vanderbilt.
“We need [Alexander] on the court,” Frese said. “The two of them, that’s impactful when they’re the ones able to score the basketball for us.”
Alexander has emerged as a scoring threat off of the bench, averaging 13 points in her last three outings while shooting 46 percent from the field.
“We have to get off to a better start,” Alexander said. “As a team, kind of figure out how to approach the game, and that starts with practice, the shoot-around, everything and just working on how to approach the game.”
The Terps also had to play without Meyers, who’s already emerged as one of Frese’s go-to scorers. She led the team in scoring against South Carolina and averaged 15.3 points through eight games. But the Maryland native had six points against Notre Dame and just two versus Nebraska.
Frese said her veteran players are more than capable of stepping up but also said the team needs more from Meyers and senior guard Lavender Briggs, who is averaging 4.9 points.
Last season was the first year since joining the Big Ten that Maryland didn’t make the conference tournament final, and with the division currently having five ranked teams — and several others close to cracking the top 25 — there will be no easy matches for the Terps.
Frese has also never lost more than four conference games since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014 — a streak that might be broken if the Terps have more performances like Sunday.
“It just seems like … every year, top to bottom, the league just gets stronger, better coaching,” Williams said. “I think it just speaks to the depth in the league and how challenging it is every night.”