IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL ABOUT ANGEL REESE
It was a promising start for one of the nation’s top ranked recruits. In Maryland’s first four games, Angel Reese averaged 13.0 points and 7 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. But early in the fourth game (the home opener versus Towson), the 6’3” guard went down with a Jones fracture to her right foot. Following surgery, she was expected back late in February. With Reese out, a notably thin lineup got thinner.
Like Minnesota’s last opponent, Penn State, the Gophers face a Maryland (5-0) team rife with change. This season’s roster is a scant shadow of last season’s lineup. There were graduations: Kaila Charles, Stephanie Jones and Blair Watson. There were transfers: Taylor Mikesell to Oregon, Shakira Austin to Ole Miss and Olivia Owens to Kentucky. But, unlike the Lady Lions, Maryland’s returnees include Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller. They provide a dynamic tandem capable of casting their own shadows.
Owusu and Miller were joined in the starting lineup by three transfers: 6’1” guard Chloe Bibby from Mississippi State, 6’3” forward Mimi Collins from Tennessee and 5’6” guard Katie Benzan from Harvard. For good measure, the Terps also recently added 6’3” forward Alaysia Styles from Cal. This line-up has Maryland atop the Big Ten (again).
It is also a lineup in serious need of Angel Reese riding to the rescue. Without her, the Terps are likely incapable of getting Maryland into the top ten. Brenda Frese has settled into a thin seven player rotation with the starters getting significant minutes. As a result, Maryland seems to tire or become disinterested as the clock counts down. The lineup became a little thinner when Channise Lewis tweaked her knee in East Lansing. While Frese said the injury wasn’t serious, Lewis was not available for Sunday’s Purdue game. On the plus side, Alaysia Styles became available before the Michigan State game. So, add one, lose one.
Even with Reese, the Terps lost to #24 Missouri State at the Beach Bubble in Estero, Florida. The Maryland, leading after the 1st quarter 24-14, faded badly in the third and fourth quarters allowing the Lady Bears to emerge with an 81-72 win. The following day, Maryland rebounded to knock off #14 Arkansas, 115-96 (everyone was certainly tired of playing defense). More important, the Terrapins continue to struggle closing out conference games versus strong opponents like Indiana and Michigan State.
For instance, Maryland jumped all over the visiting Hoosiers (the preseason B1G favorites) enthusiastically running out to a 23-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The next two quarter s were dead even before the Indiana scored 33 in the fourth closing within 3 late. Ultimately, a 84-80 Terp victory was aided by mid-game injuries to IU’s Jaelynn Penn (ankle) and Nicole Cardano-Hilary (elbow to the eye). Plus, as IU head coach, Teri Moren, said, the Hoosiers had no answer for Owusu who had 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Miller chipped in 20 points.
The game at Michigan State played out similarly, minus the injuries. A 48-33 Terp halftime lead all but melted away in the second half with Sparty closing within 2 with 1:46 remaining in the game. Maryland recovered to pull out 93-87 win. Once again Owusu was the motivating force with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
Yes, it seems unlikely that the Gophers can tire out Maryland down the stretch when we’ve had our own fading issues. Anyway, I find Ashley Owusu, last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, a fun player to watch. She’s not a fun player to guard. Once she’s headed toward the bucket she can’t be stopped.
Both Owusu and Miller will be well rested heading to Minneapolis. Maryland made short work of Purdue in College Park 83-46. The Terps led 43-22 at the half and quickly moved the lead to plus thirty in the third quarter. Brenda limited both Owusu and Miller to 30 minutes. So, we can look forward to a pair of tall point guards ready and willing to run and Angel Reese biding her time on the bench wearing a boot.
Last Season’s Showdown:
Maryland traveled to Minneapolis for the last conference game of the season and delivered a 99-44 thrashing to the Gophers in front of the season’s largest home crowd. The 55 point loss was the third worst in Minnesota history. I think we’d rather remember Jasmine Brunson being proposed to during the post-game, senior day, celebration.
Minnesota’s quarter by quarter scoring was 13, 6, 20 and 5. We couldn’t even enjoy the 20 point third quarter because the Terps put up 38. Anyway, Owusu is the only returning starter from a game in which she scored 17 points in 26 minutes. Diamond Miller came off the bench for 11 points in 18 minutes. Even Faith Masonius contributed 6 points in 20 minutes. Minnesota was led by Sara Scalia with 10 points and Gadiva Hubbard with 8. Klarke Sconiers did not score in 10 minutes of play.
B1G Wins: @Rutgers 94-72, @Penn State 96-82, Indiana 84-80, Michigan State 93-87, Purdue 83-46
Non Conference Wins: (N) Davidson 94-72, (N) Arkansas 115-96, Towson 112-78, James Madison 101-59
Non Conference Loss: (N) Missouri State 72-81
Ashley Owusu’s Last Six Games
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Rutgers 15 5 5 32 3 James Madison 19 8 7 29 0 Penn State 34 8 1 38 4 Indiana 20 5 5 33 3 Michigan State 20 10 6 38 3 Purdue 19 3 9 30 1
Diamond Miller’s Last Six Games:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Rutgers 19 4 2 33 4 James Madison 18 6 2 23 4 Penn State 17 6 4 33 2 Indiana 20 6 2 25 3 Michigan State 14 6 3 36 2 Purdue 16 8 2 30 1
Probable Starters (B1G Stats):
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 6’0” G So Ashley Owusu 34.0 21.6 6.2 6’3” G So Diamond Miller 29.6 17.2 6.0 6’1” G/F Sr Chloe Bibby 34.2 14.8 7.2 6’3” F RSo Mimi Collins 27.6 12.0 7.8 5’6” G Sr Katie Benzan 33.0 12.2 3.2
Bench (Big Stats):
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’8” G RJr Channise Lewis 16.5 5.3 0.5 6’1” G/F So Faith Masonius 20.0 8.0 4.6 6’1” G Fr Taisiya Kozlova 6.5 2.0 1.0 6’3” F Sr Alaysia Styles 10.5 3.0 2.0