Syracuse’s Alaina Rice was stuck with few options as she frantically searched for an outlet pass while the clock trickled down and the Orange’s hope for a comeback dwindled. Maryland’s Lavender Briggs had the defensive task of keeping Rice in front of her.
But with less than two seconds left, Bri McDaniel ended the game. The sophomore swooped in from behind and poked the ball away from Rice. The steal secured Maryland women’s basketball’s 83-81 win against Syracuse on Sunday.
“She’s starting to move that needle, which is exciting,” coach Brenda Frese said.
McDaniel’s strong start to her sophomore season has been one of the lone bright spots for Maryland’s through four games. McDaniel had three steals Sunday, including the one to seal the victory, and was trusted to be on the floor in the game’s most critical moments.
After Maryland’s loss to UConn last week, Frese hinted at potential lineup changes. That could mean inserting McDaniel as a starter.
Alongside Lavender Briggs, McDaniel is one of the Terps’ best on-ball defenders. But Briggs has been struggling immensely on offense. The Florida transfer was poised to play an expanded role this season but is shooting 28 percent from the field. Briggs has also made just one three-pointer so far and gotten to the free throw line just four times.
Meanwhile, McDaniel has made the case for more time on the floor. She played a season-high 21 minutes on Sunday. Despite shooting two-for-seven from the field, the sophomore made eight of her 10 free throws and attacked to score off cuts and transition breaks.
Maryland is searching for a backup point guard — freshman Riley Nelson has struggled to get acclimated in that role and has played sparingly. Frese put McDaniel at point guard for stretches of Sunday’s game. The sophomore looked comfortable.
“I came into practice the other day asking coach [Frese], I wanted to run point, I played point my high school career,” McDaniel said.
“Anytime a player wants that responsibility, I’m here for it,” Frese said.
McDaniel finished with a career-high five assists. Interior penetration is key in Maryland’s system, and she created multiple chances for herself and others by breaking down Syracuse’s defense.
Her connection with fellow bench player Allie Kubek was also instrumental to the Terps’ tight victory.
The pair’s chemistry was on display in the third quarter. McDaniel got past her primary defender, drawing Kubek’s defender in the lane to help. That opened up a shovel pass to the Towson transfer, gifting Kubek an easy layup.
Didn’t get chance to watch Maryland-Syracuse live (flight to Michigan lol), but after watching game, I came away impressed with Bri McDaniels on-ball reps.
Terps really searching for a secondary ball handler and McDaniel looked comfortable. Big development if trend holds.⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/bN1Uf8aAtD
— Sam Jane (@sam_jane230) November 19, 2023
McDaniel was a spark off the bench for the Terps last year. The then-freshman was a tenacious defender who played with energy, but her 42 personal fouls and limited offensive capabilities kept her role small.
McDaniel still fouls too much — averaging 3.3 personal fouls per game — but that tends to come with her aggressive defense.
“I have this, like, crazy energy,” McDaniel said.
Through a tumultuous first four games, McDaniel’s emergence has been Maryland’s most positive development. The Terps could have a new starter waiting on their bench.