After the first quarter of its matchup against No. 23 Washington State, it looked like Maryland women’s basketball had broken out of its offensive slump.

The Terps looked like the team that was ranked No. 14 in the preseason, with guards Shyanne Sellers and Lavender Briggs making jumpers while a versatile defense clamped down on the Cougars in the opening game of the Cancun Challenge.

But that quarter proved to be an outlier. Maryland’s offense collapsed, scoring a mere 36 points after the first quarter in an 87-67 loss to the Cougars.
Maryland has lost three straight to ranked opponents, with an average margin of defeat of 30 points. It shot just 30.3 percent from the field while Washington State shot 61 percent.

“I thought it was a lot of quick, rushed shots that we settled for, a lot of set shots instead of moving the basketball,” Frese said.

Allie Kubek replaced Faith Masonius in the starting lineup, after the former’s strong performance against Syracuse. The lineup change sparked Maryland’s offense, as the Terps scored 31 first-quarter points and shot 65 percent from the field.

[Bri McDaniel is making her case to start for Maryland women’s basketball]

Briggs had struggled offensively to start the year, but mentioned before Thursday’s game that she was going to look to be more aggressive in looking for her shot.

Her mentality paid off. Briggs, who entered the game with just nine field goals, exceeded her season-high with 14 first-quarter points. She made her first five shots, including two triples, and took eight shots in the first quarter.

But the Maryland (2-3) offensive explosion turned out to be a mirage. Coach Brenda Frese’s team scored just eight points in the second quarter as the ball movement slowed significantly. After notching seven assists in the opening frame, the Terps had just two in the second quarter.

“The ball isn’t moving, so we gotta be able to get better ball movement on the offensive end,” Frese said.

Washington State’s imposing defense — which only allowed 54.4 points per game entering Thursday, the fourth-best mark in the Pac-12 — forced Maryland to shoot just 3-for-19 from the floor in the second quarter. The Cougars, who were down 11 at the close of the first quarter, entered halftime with a two-point lead.

Washington State (6-0) denied Maryland access to the paint, forcing the Terps into numerous mid-range jumpers that stopped falling after the first quarter.

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Maryland made just three mid-range jumpers in the middle quarters, while the Cougars pounded the ball inside with Bella Murekatete and Charlisse Leger-Walker on fastbreak opportunities. Leger-Walker finished the game with her first career triple-double and Washington State scored 18 transition points, nine more than Maryland.

“They ran harder than us,” Briggs said.

Early in the season, Frese’s rotations remain fluid. Sophomore Bri McDaniel, who notched season-highs in minutes and points against Syracuse, played just 17 minutes on Thursday — much of which came with the game out of reach. The sophomore went 2-12 from the field.

“I think [the] starters and [the] bench, the consistency level isn’t there yet,” Frese said.

That fluidity embodies the turbulence of a Terps team still struggling to find its flow in the early season. Maryland looked like it captured its rhythm through the strong first quarter but by the end of the Thanksgiving Day matchup, it once again suffered another blowout loss to a ranked opponent.