By Aidan Currie
With her team up 43-26 and just two minutes left in the first half, Indiana’s Sara Scalia found herself a few feet behind the three-point line as she searched for an open look. Just seconds later, all-conference forward Mackenzie Holmes left the paint to set a screen on Scalia’s defender, giving the guard an open look from downtown.
Scalia then collected herself, fired a three, and held the finish, as her shot splashed through the net, and capped off a marvelous offensive first half in which she tallied 14 points on five of six shooting (four of the five came from behind the arc). Scalia’s three was also one of eight three-pointers that the Hoosiers drained in the first half.
“It definitely helps as a shooter, seeing your first couple of shots go in,” said Scalia. “I think a big thing is getting in rhythm, especially early on in the game.”
Ironically, the Terps were actually more efficient from behind the arc during the opening 20 minutes, posting a 100% three-point percentage to Indiana’s 44%. It just so happened that Indiana attempted 18 triples while Maryland took a measly two.
The discrepancy in three-point attempts ultimately became the story of not just the first half, but the entire game, as the three point onslaught set the Hoosiers up with a 52-30 lead at the break. The deficit was simply too large for the Terps to overcome, as they wound up losing, 87-73.
“I think that first half was just on us,” said Maryland’s Brinae Alexander. “I think we’re still trying to figure out what [the issue is] with our starts, but it’s something that we definitely want to lock in [on] more, since we know we need to start better.”
As Maryland stacked the paint during the first quarter in an effort to slow down prolific Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes, the Terps struggled to close out on the perimeter. The numerous open looks from behind the three-point line allowed the Hoosiers to get out to a 14-2 lead, with 12 of the 14 coming from threes.
Maryland also felt the absence of junior Shyanne Sellers on the offensive end of the floor. Sellers picked up a knee injury in the Terps’ loss to Penn State on Sunday, and was listed as day-to-day prior to Wednesday’s contest, but ultimately wasn’t able to go against Indiana.
“We’re losing our depth,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. “[With] losing Riley [Nelson], losing Shy now, [and] losing Emma [Chardon] early in the season, the depth has been very impacted, so [we’ve] got to be better.”
It took over four minutes for Maryland to notch their first made field goal, which came in the form of a Bri McDaniel jumper. The bucket actually sparked a mini-run that allowed Maryland to cut the deficit to just six points, bringing the Xfinity Center crowd to life in the process. As luck would have it however, Terps fans would have very little to cheer about the rest of the half.
In addition to Scalia’s 14 first-half points, Holmes contributed 12 points and four offensive rebounds, as the forward simply bullied Maryland defenders in the first half.
“As a post player, you’re really as your guards,” said Holmes. “I know my teammates are going to find me, and I know they have confidence in me, so it really makes my job a whole lot easier.”
Given Maryland’s third quarter struggles throughout the season there was little to suggest that the Terps would see a change of fortune coming out of the break. Oddly enough though, the third quarter ended up being Maryland’s best of the game.
A balanced offensive attack for Maryland saw equal contributions from Alexander, Jakia Brown-Turner, and Faith Masonius; points wise, the trio had five, six, and five, respectively.
The third quarter also saw Bri McDaniel emerge in the point guard role that she needed to play in Sellers’ absence. In addition to her six points and four assists, the sophomore closed out the quarter by driving to the basket, drawing a shooting foul, and sinking both of her free throws to bring the deficit within single digits, heading into the fourth.
“[I was just trying] to put my team in the right positions … to get them shots, and put myself in the right positions to get myself some shots,” said McDaniel. “I feel like I could’ve [done] a little bit better, but this [was my] first game being at the point [guard position], … so I just have to come back to practice, work on it, and be better for the next game.”
With the Xfinity Center buzzing and momentum on the Terps’ side, Maryland seemed prime to make a deficit-cutting run early on in the fourth quarter. Instead, the opposite happened.
“Quite frankly … Chloe [Moore-McNiel] just told [the team] that we were going to stick together and … stay connected,” said Indiana head coach Teri Moren, when asked about how her team stayed together heading into the fourth quarter. “It’s funny how sometimes you’ll go into a timeout and want to help [your players] … and sometimes they’ll turn around and help you.”
After Jakia Brown-Turner finished a layup to bring the Terps within seven points, the Hoosiers put together a 10-0 run–which started off the back of a technical foul from Masonius–that spanned three minutes and included six free throws.
Getting to the line down the stretch ultimately allowed Indiana to seal the game, as the Hoosiers cashed in on 11 of their 14 fourth quarter free throw attempts.
“44 fouls…what are we doing?” lamented Frese, who expressed some frustration with how the game was called. “I don’t know how we didn’t have our entire bench foul-out, [because] it was a very fragmented game.”
Following a third straight loss Maryland now finds itself in a precarious position. The Terps only have one win over a ranked opponent–they beat current No. 21 Syracuse in November, but the Orange were unranked at the time–and now find themselves with a 4-6 record in conference play.
“Like I said, I challenged them at halftime and I love the response, so that tells me all that I need to know about our group,” said Frese, who remains optimistic about her team. “We’re going to get plenty more opportunities with the remaining games that we have.”
Possibly the biggest of those opportunities is this Saturday at 8 p.m., when the Terps host Caitlin Clark and the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-2, 9-1), in what will likely be Maryland’s most important game of the season.