Maryland women’s basketball improves its tournament hopes, blowing out Penn State

With her team holding a 40-36 lead over Penn State midway through the third quarter of Sunday afternoon’s contest at the Xfinity Center, Maryland’s Shyanne Sellers dove to steal a wayward Lady Lion pass. As she secured the ball, Sellers threw the ball up the court to a fellow Terp, while still lying on the floor. The Terps eventually worked the ball inside to Jakia Brown-Turner, where the graduate guard finished an easy layup to cap off a vital 12-0 Terrapin run. 

Maryland would go on to dominate the second half of Sunday’s game. In their previous meeting with Penn State, the Terps were outscored by 23 points in the second half. This time around though, the Terps outscored the Lady Lions by 13 in the final 20 minutes. 

Within that 30-point swing was a complete night and day difference for both teams. Three weeks removed from an ugly 112-76 loss in State College, the Terps defense shut down one of the best offenses in the BIG 10 as Maryland held the Lady Lions to a season-low point total in a comprehensive 77-62 win on Senior Day. 

“[This] was a really important game for us as we continue to trend in the right direction,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. “A top [level] win is really important as we’re making the push towards March.”

When the Terps and Lady Lions faced off on January 28th, the two teams were going in completely opposite directions. Maryland was coming off a rough loss at Michigan – and would go on to lose their next three games – while Penn State was in the midst of a four-game winning streak. 

As Sunday’s matchup approached two teams once again found themselves facing contrasting fortunes, however, this time, the roles were reversed. The Terps were riding a two-game winning streak while the Lady Lions were losers of their previous four, and rather fittingly, the momentum continued for both sides. 

“Every single one of our players and our staff needs to step up,” said Penn State head coach Carolyn Kieger. “We’re not sharing the ball, [and] we’re playing selfish basketball right now.” 

The opening quarter was remarkably even for the first nine minutes, but the Terps managed to create some separation in the final 60 seconds, and it all started with a baseline save. 

After a Maryland shot clanked off the iron, freshman Emily Fisher leaped to save the rebound before it could go out of bounds, and – while in mid-air – launched a pass to Shyanne Sellers, who was standing at the logo. Fisher’s find allowed Sellers to reset the offense, and eventually find Brinae Alexander, who drained a corner-three.    

Fisher’s save – and Alexander’s subsequent three – sparked a 9-0 Maryland run to close out the quarter, but the momentum was ultimately short-lived for the Terps, as Penn State managed to even up the score just three and a half minutes into the second. Maryland would eventually carry a two-point lead into halftime.  

Defensively, the Terps weren’t able to set their defense on a number of possessions as Penn State’s Moriah Murray and Ashley Owusu were firing long passes to push the ball down the court at nearly every opportunity they got. 

Despite their efforts to push the pace though, Maryland managed to slow the game down enough to the point where Penn State – who averages 85 points per game – only tallied 26 points in the first half.

“I think this game was definitely a lot more personal,” said Maryland senior Faith Masonius. “We had to feed off our defense, so we had to get those defensive stops to get our offense going. We [also] have a really good strength coach, so we’re all really strong,” joked Masonius.    

After a relatively quiet first half, Penn State’s Makenna Marisa nailed back-to-back three-pointers from the wing to bookmark an 8-2 second-half opening run for the Lady Lions. After Marisa’s second make, Maryland completely took control of not just the third quarter, but the rest of the game.

“If we would have made the five or six [open] layups we had [in the first half], we would have been up 10 going into the locker room,” said Frese. “[There was] a much better … focus and concentration in that second half.” 

As a byproduct of their massive 12-0 in the middle of the third, Maryland outscored Penn State 23-4 in the final 7 minutes of the quarter. Jakia Brown-Turner was once again at the center of the Terps’ success, as the grad student had 15 points, outscoring the entire Penn State team in the frame. Simply put, Sunday’s Senior Day was Jakia Brown-Turner’s day. 

After transferring to Maryland from NC State this past offseason, Brown-Turner struggled to find her scoring touch during the first two and half months of the season. Since Maryland’s win over Illinois on January 20th however, Brown-Turner has averaged 20 points per game, including the career-high 32 points that she dropped against the Lady Lions on Sunday.    

“I’m happy [Jakia] is picking up her confidence … right when we need her to be,” said Sellers. “She’s been huge for us [during] this second half of the season.”

Masonius added on, saying, “[Jakia’s] energy is definitely contagious, and everyone just continues to feed off of it, so we’re very happy for [her].”   

The Terps carried their sizable advantage into the fourth quarter and did not look back. As Brown-Turner kept adding to her scoring total, Maryland continued stretching their lead until the buzzer sounded.  

With just four more games remaining on their regular season schedule, Sunday’s Senior Day victory was easily one of Maryland’s most vital of the year. 

Entering Sunday the Terps were listed as the first team out of the NCAA tournament (by ESPN’s projections), however, these same rankings currently predict the Lady Lions as a 10-seed in the tournament. With that in mind, the Terps – now riding a three-game winning streak – will likely creep their way into the projected tournament field when the rankings are updated this Tuesday. 

“We’ve been through it, [but] … this team is still trending up,” said Frese. “They’re putting more complete games together, they’re trusting each other, and it’s a perfect time to be clicking.” 

As March approaches, Maryland still has four regular season games remaining – two of which are road matchups against No. 2 Ohio State and No. 14 Indiana – in addition to the BIG 10 tournament. To kick off this critical stretch the Terps will be back at the Xfinity Center on Wednesday night to host Rutgers (8-20, 2-13) at 7 p.m.