The Maryland women’s basketball team took out its frustrations on Arkansas on Sunday, a day after it squandered a double-digit lead against Missouri State and saw its 18-game winning streak dating from last season come to an end.
The No. 12 Terrapins blew out the No. 14 Razorbacks, 115-96, in their final game at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. Arkansas began the day 3-0, but Maryland (2-1) poured in the points with little resistance. The 115 points set a record for the event, which is in its eighth season, and were the most against a ranked opponent in program history.
“Obviously, a terrific response by our team today,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “We were disappointed in our play yesterday, and I thought it said a lot about this team and the pride to be able to come out [in that manner] — they were locked in. . . . I think it speaks volumes. This is the character we’ve seen out of them since we started together. The competitiveness and the fire and the fight.
“We spent a lot of time talking about that no one’s going to feel sorry for us. We understand we’re going to get every team’s best shot. Pregame was about having pride.”
Senior guard Katie Benzan scored a game-high 28 points and tied a school record by knocking down eight three-pointers. Senior forward Chloe Bibby aggressively looked for her shot from the outset and finished with 23 points and hit 5 of 7 threes. Sophomore guard Diamond Miller chipped in 19 points. Reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Ashley Owusu was in shouting distance of a triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“That’s definitely a cool feat,” Benzan said about the three-pointers. “I didn’t even know that was the record. I was just more focused on winning and doing whatever it took to help my team win today.
“They just kept telling me to shoot, so I kept shooting.”
Maryland seemed to learn its lesson after watching an 11-point lead disappear against No. 24 Missouri State the previous day: It never relented. A 16-2 run in the first quarter, highlighted by a pair of buckets each from Benzan, Miller and Bibby, gave the Terrapins a 22-11 advantage late in the quarter, and Arkansas (3-1) never put together a rallying run. The Razorbacks led for just 14 seconds in the game.
“Honestly, as soon as the ball was thrown up in the first quarter we were locked in,” Bibby said. “We were ready to go. There was no doubt about it. I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to give everything this game. The energy was just phenomenal. On the bench, everything, on the court. We just played together tonight, and it was a lot of fun.”
Both teams preferred an up-tempo style of play, but Maryland played it much more efficiently. Miller and freshman forward Angel Reese, the No. 2 recruit in the nation, dominated inside, and shooters consistently made open threes on the outside. Maryland shot 51.3 percent from the field, including a blistering 16-for-31 effort (51.6 percent) from three-point range. The Razorbacks were able to put up points of their own and shot a decent 45.8 percent from the field but could not match the Terrapins’ hot shooting.
On top of its shooting prowess, Maryland got plenty of second opportunities by cleaning up the boards. The Terrapins outrebounded Arkansas 51-31 — getting 12 from Bibby and 10 from Miller — and outscored it 27-13 on second-chance points.
The season-opening event was an interesting test for Maryland, to see what type of team the program would field after it finished last season ranked fourth in the nation and with a legitimate shot at a national championship before the NCAA tournament was canceled. Five of the top six scorers from that team are gone, including a pair of former five-star signees. Another five-star recruit who did not play last season transferred. Other than the hiccup against Missouri State, the new-look Terrapins seem capable of another successful campaign. They rolled Davidson, 94-72, in the season opener.
Maryland will return to College Park for its home opener Thursday against Towson. The three-day break will be much welcomed after the Terrapins played three games in three days to start the season, when conditioning is typically at its worst.
“I think it validates,” Frese said of setting the program scoring record against a ranked team. “I’ve always felt like this team is very capable with a ton of firepower. You could see between our team, every single player can score the basketball. The biggest thing for us is just sharing the basketball. We don’t have to make tough plays, have to take tough shots. You can see how dangerous we are when we’re just being unselfish, learning where everybody is at and making plays for each other.
“When you’re talking about beating a record like that from so long ago, it speaks volumes of what this team is capable of.”
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