All eyes were on Bri McDaniel during her first postgame press conference.
When the Chicago native was asked how the team’s veterans have helped her, Abby Meyers leaned back in her chair and looked over; Shyanne Sellers glanced at McDaniel with a raised eyebrow and subtle smile; even coach Brenda Frese put her chin in her left palm and turned her head.
“[They] just tell me, ‘Go get a steal, this is our play, let’s get a stop,’” McDaniel said of her teammates’ advice. “Just trying to emphasize on what [they’re saying] in the huddles. Doing that has really been a big step for me.”
McDaniel, who flipped from Texas A&M to No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball last spring, began her collegiate career with an impressive 13-point, seven-rebound game against George Mason in the Nov. 7 season opener.
She logged 19 minutes in the game and looked primed for a large role. But McDaniel wouldn’t meet those minutes again until Monday against Penn State. Playing time is hard to come by for the gritty guard; she has played less than 10 minutes 14 times this season.
But against the Nittany Lions, McDaniel had one of her most complete games. She had eight points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and made both of her three-point attempts.
“It felt really good just to help my team out with anything they needed,” McDaniel said. “I just needed to do what I do best and play defense and contribute in any type of way that I can.”
There have been glimpses of McDaniel’s potential: her initial 13-point outburst, an I-won’t-back-down attitude against No. 1 South Carolina when she got tangled up with an opposing player after a foul and a push, and a strip steal against Nebraska that led to a buzzer-beater layup at the end of the first half.
But Monday was the coalescence of her development. Against the Nittany Lions, McDaniel showed her composure inside.
At one point, Elisa Pinzan fed McDaniel in the post, and the freshman guard took two dribbles before going into the chest of graduate forward Johnasia Cash. McDaniel paused and waited for Cash to go up for a block before hitting a fadeaway jumper. Her poise earned her a bucket in the paint and illustrated her improved patience.
“Before, [the game] was really fast, and I just didn’t catch up,” McDaniel said. “Now that I’ve slowed down and let the game come to me, it’s … just been the best.”
With two more conference matches this week — Maryland travels to No. 6 Iowa Thursday before returning home to host No. 10 Ohio State Sunday — McDaniel needs to continue giving the Terps valuable minutes.
Even with McDaniel peaking and the Terps trailing for just less than six minutes in their last five games, the team doesn’t feel like it has put together a complete outing.
“We haven’t played a full 40-minute game where we are exceptional,” Sellers said. “I don’t think our best basketball has come yet.”