Maryland women’s basketball’s defensive drop-off from last season has been among the main reasons this version of the Terps has started off slower than last season’s Elite Eight squad.
But Maryland recaptured that defensive excellence Tuesday after switching to a zone defense against Towson. The Terps held the Tigers to under 26 percent from the field and dominated them, 99-51, to extend their winning streak to six.
The Terps had a day of rest between games, a quick turnaround Brenda Frese likened to the Big Ten tournament. Despite that, Maryland (8-3) played with energy from the tip in front of over 10,000 expected local children who attended the matchup for field trip day, per a team spokesperson.
The changes flummoxed Towson (7-2), which took over four minutes to make its first field goal. The Tigers shot 23.1 percent from the field and 16 percent from three-point range in the first quarter.
Maryland allowed a season-low eight points in the opening frame and a mere seven in the second. Towson’s 15 points marked its lowest first-half output all season.
“That [zone] is something newer that we put in this week and I think it’s probably the most comfortable zone that we are in and we like playing in,” graduate student Brinae Alexander said.
The Terps’ defense struggled entering Tuesday, ranking second-to-last in the Big Ten in points allowed per game.
But since Frese made Bri McDaniel a starter against Niagara, the Terps have only allowed 57.5 points per game, down from just under 80 points in its first seven contests.
“I felt like just coming out and setting an emphasis on just staying contained and being disciplined on defense,” McDaniel said.
Maryland held Towson to 19.2 percent from the field in the first half. No Tiger scored more than eight points.
Another recent entree into the starting lineup and former Tiger, Allie Kubek, shined against her old team. The redshirt junior converted 7-of-9 field goals and scored 17 points.
She only trailed McDaniel in scoring. The sophomore chipped in 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in one of her best offensive performances of the year.
The Chicago native continued to play more point guard and finished with a career-high six assists. McDaniel’s emergence has allowed junior Shyanne Sellers to play off the ball, a role she’s previously excelled in.
Frese said the Terps have examined reducing Sellers’ minutes at point guard as part of their tweaks to solve second-quarter issues.
The second half saw graduate student Brinae Alexander get more involved. The Vanderbilt transfer hit three triples midway through the third quarter and finished the game with 11 points.
Maryland led by 31 at the half, but familiar issues emerged. The Tigers scored 25 points in the third quarter and grabbed six offensive rebounds.
That continues a troubling theme for the Terps. Frese’s squad has allowed opponents to grab 132 offensive rebounds this year, the second-worst mark in the Big Ten this year per Her Hoops Stats.
The errors didn’t matter against the Tigers but could have outsized impacts as Maryland faces stronger competition, particularly in the conference. The Big Ten has eight teams, including the Terps, who have grabbed over 100 offensive rebounds so far this season.
Frese’s team gets a break — Maryland plays just two games for the rest of 2023. The Terps won’t play a ranked team until Jan. 17 when No. 15 Ohio State travels to College Park.
That time will give them multiple opportunities to improve rebounding and create defensive consistency that could help extend Maryland’s win streak.