With just over eight minutes in the third quarter, a Mount St. Mary’s player drove to the left, attempting to get a shot to go and give a spark to a struggling Mountaineer offense.
Instead, that shot met the hand of Chloe Bibby, who swatted the attempt and then saved it from going out of bounds by tapping it to Katie Benzan. Benzan threw it ahead to Ashley Owusu, who led the break and attacked the rim before handing it off to Diamond Miller for the layup.
As has been the story all season, a stellar defensive presence led to a balanced offensive attack in round one of the NCAA tournament as Maryland advanced to the round of 32 with a resounding 98-45 win over Mount St. Mary’s. The 53-point victory is the largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament game by a Maryland men’s or women’s basketball team ever.
The opening period was a fast paced show that featured both teams trading baskets back and forth. At one point Bibby hit a three-pointer on the break, just for a Mountaineer to come down and answer with a three. A few minutes later, Benzan the sharpshooter knocked down a triple, but Mount St. Mary’s responded with a three from the corner to cut the Terps lead to one.
However, one team couldn’t keep up. The Terps went on a 8-0 run late in the first to gain a 10-point cushion heading to the second.
“When we started, it looked like we had a little bit of rust and maybe some jitters,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Once we settled in, and especially when you look at the second quarter, I mean that’s as dominant as you can get.”
From there, Maryland put on an absolute clinic on both ends of the floor, allowing just four points to the Mountaineers in the second quarter. The Terps outscored the Mountaineers 25-4 in the period and ended the half on a 23-2 run. Mount St. Mary’s shot 2-16 from the field and 0-7 from beyond the arc in the second frame. At the break, Maryland led 53-22.
The Terps force over 20 turnovers a game with an aggressive defensive attack that extends far beyond the perimeter. Against Mount St. Mary’s, Maryland dialed up that pressure, getting in its opponents face and forcing them to turn the ball over and take ill-advised shots. Mount St. Mary’s had 20 turnovers in the contest that led to 30 points for the Terps.
“Once we were able to get into a rhythm, it forced them into a lot of turnovers,” Frese said. “We build a lot of our energy off of our defense that leads to our offense.”
The domination continued in the second half as Maryland never allowed the Mountaineers breathing room. Every active Terp saw the floor, with nine players entering the scoring column. As is common with the top scoring offense in the country, five players reached double figures in the first round matchup.
In their first ever NCAA tournament game, the sophomore duo of Owusu and Miller shined. Owusu finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Miller finished with 19 points. Bibby, who does have tournament experience as a senior transfer from Mississippi State, recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards.
“It feels great to be a part of it, especially with this group of girls because we all have so much love for each other on and off the court,” Owusu said.
With the win, Frese moves to 16-0 in first round games at Maryland. The Terps advance to the Round of 32 and will face No. 7 Alabama on Wednesday.