Big second half propels Maryland women’s basketball past Ohio State

It’s been a season of contrasts for Maryland women’s basketball. While they have blown out numerous unranked teams, the Terps have struggled against those in or around the top 25. The latest surprising result was a 58-81 blowout at the hands of Northwestern last week. On Monday, the Terps rebounded, defeating Ohio State 72-62 behind a dominant outing from Kaila Charles.

Charles is Maryland’s engine. In a season where the Terps have struggled for consistency, Charles has carried them to some crucial wins. On Monday, she did so again. The Terrapins guard rebounded from a sub-par outing in the previous game by leading the Terrapins with 28 points and adding seven rebounds.

“We couldn’t keep [Charles] in front of us. She was driving by us, she was getting offensive rebounds,” said Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff. “She is one of the best players in the country, and she showed that.”

Ohio State came opened as the stronger team, hitting several three-point shots to establish an early lead — shooting 4-8 from outside. Freshman guard Jacy Sheldon shot 2-3 to lead the Buckeyes. In contrast. Maryland did not attempt a 3-point shot in the first.  

Charles and Blair Watson kept the Terps in it for the first quarter, relentless attacking the basket. Charles scored 10 points to keep the Maryland close in the opening period. At the end of an offensive showcase, Maryland trailed 25-24.

The second quarter was nowhere near as close. The Terps were down by as many as 11 points in the period, shooting a disappointing 39% from the field. Furthermore, Charles was held scoreless. Despite its poor offense, Maryland was only trailing Ohio State 42-35 at halftime — perhaps fortunate that the deficit wasn’t more.

While Charles’ big second half was crucial, Maryland’s success was rooted from a stronger defensive performance. Maryland’s press seemed to finally kick in, causing the Buckeyes problems. The Terps converted 11 turnovers into 12 points, a key factor in opening a lead. Watson was instrumental in the effort, picking the pockets of Ohio State ball handlers seven times.

“[Watson] plays really sound, defensively,” McGuff. “She seems to always be in the right place.

Maryland’s defensive effort prevented Ohio State from being able to put together any offensive cohesion. The Buckeyes started hot, shooting 56 percent in the first half, but the Terps held Ohio State to 28 percent shooting in the second.

“I loved the response coming out of the locker room,” said Coach Brenda Frese.

And with an augmented defensive effort, the offense started to flow. The Terps chipped away at the lead, finding looks in the paint. And when Charles dropped a jumper as time expired in the third, Maryland established 53-51 lead. It was one they wouldn’t lose.

Charles spent the second half ailing the coffin shut, exploding for 17 of her 28 points in the second half. It wasn’t the first time the Terps have relied on her for a big game. With a tough Big Ten slate ahead, it likely won’t be the last.