By: Cody Wilcox
Radford’s Destinee Walker took advantage of Maryland’s defensive lapse during a fast break and hit a wide open 3-pointer in front of her own bench around the three-minute mark of the third quarter, cutting Maryland’s lead to 12.
Wasting no time on the other end, freshman Taylor Mikesell came off a screen to catch a pass on the right side of the floor from Channise Lewis and answered with her own 3-pointer.
Her shot not only sparked a 10-0 run to put Radford away in their 25-point third quarter for a 73-51 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but broke Maryland’s previous season record of 91 made threes that was set by Kristi Toliver in 2008-2009.
“I’m not really chasing records, but I think it’s really cool. Especially, being that’s Kristi Toliver, she’s a great player coming out of here,” Mikesell said. “But still just focused on keep playing and keep winning.”
With Maryland’s win the Terps will move on to face the UCLA Bruins on Monday at the Xfinity Center in College Park.
Mikesell finished 4-10 from beyond the arc and 16 points against a Radford team that holds their opponents to 25.2 percent from three-point range, which ranked second in the country.
The freshman scored 11 of her 16 in the second half, when Maryland was ultimately able to pull away from the Highlanders.
“She would come off those screens, and I saw her shoot and I said, ‘Welp, let’s start jogging back to the sideline,’” Radford forward Destinee Walker said.
Shortly after Walker asked for clarification on whether Mikesell broke the freshman record, she was informed that Mikesell broke a previous record of Toliver.
“That’s awesome,” Walker said. “I wish she would have missed today, but things didn’t go our way. I’m happy for her.”
Walker and No. 14-seed Radford entered the game on Saturday with a reputation for their defensive pressure. The Highlanders were sixth in the country with holding their opponents to a 33.9 field goal percentage and 11th in scoring defense as they have held their opponents to 54.6 points per game.
However, No. 3-seed Maryland held their own against the Highlanders, who had won 18 straight games leading into the NCAA Tournament, and shot 46.9 percent while dominating the paint. The Terps finished with a 40-18 advantage for points in the paint, something they have found effective for them throughout the season.
“We really felt like that’s where we could exploit them when you talk about the depth that we had inside,” Frese said. “Our post play has been a big difference for us when you talk about that play inside.”
Maryland’s interior players, including Stephanie Jones, Brianna Fraser, Shakira Austin and Olivia Owens combined for 33 points going 15-25 from the floor and grabbing 19 boards.
While Walker led the Highlanders with 15 points, the Terps had major contributions from Kaila Charles, who finished with 14, and Jones, who finished with 12, to go along with Mikesell’s output.
Radford also felt Maryland’s length, which gave the Highlanders trouble from the start of the game.
Following a two-week break after the completion of the Big Ten Championship loss to Iowa, the Terps came out with a lot of energy on the defensive side of the court and in their press.
Maryland jumped out early in the first five minutes of regulation as the Terps forced Radford into four turnovers and jumped out to an early 12-point lead. The Highlanders’ finished with 17 turnovers for the game, while the Terps had 17 points off of those turnovers.
“In the Big South there’s nobody that long,” Walker said. “Especially [Austin], I’m not sure how tall she is. But she is long. And the rest of their team is long.”