Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Preview: No. 2 Maryland women’s basketball looks to carry strong start into Bahamas tournament

By Brandon Schwartzberg

Following its massive win over No. 6 Baylor and aided by then-No. 2 UConn’s loss to No. 1 South Carolina, Maryland women’s basketball got the bump to No. 2 in the new AP Poll Top 25. This ranking matches the Terps’ highest since February 20, 2017.

Now ranked second in the country, the Terps have a big test ahead of them, as Maryland will travel to the Bahamas to face No. 5 NC State and No. 7 Stanford as part of the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship.

Coach Brenda Frese’s squad defeated the talented Baylor Bears without star guard Katie Benzan, who was inactive after battling an illness. Freshman Shyanne Sellers was pushed into the starting lineup for the first time in her career and showed promise in Frese’s eyes.

“I was anxious and excited for her against Baylor to see where she was going to fall. Obviously she had shown in her first five games leading up that she was prepared but that’s another jump for a freshman. But she did a terrific job,” Frese said.

Baylor led after one quarter of play, as Maryland struggled to shoot early on, while Baylor excelled. What kept the Terps in the game early was their ability to force Baylor turnovers, as the Terps forced six in the first quarter alone.

Maryland flipped a switch in the second quarter, especially down the stretch, as the Terps outscored the Bears 12-4 to enter halftime with a three-point lead.

The third quarter was even throughout, as neither squad managed to pull away, leaving the game to be decided in the fourth quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Maryland lead was trimmed to five as Baylor’s Jordan Lewis converted on a three point play. The Bears forced a turnover on the next Terps’ possession, and NaLyssa Smith converted an easy layup to trim Maryland’s lead to 3, giving Baylor a momentum boost.

Off the Maryland inbound play from the side, Angel Reese drove directly into Smith for the old-fashioned three-point play, erupting both the Maryland bench and the fans at Xfinity Center.

With under a minute left in regulation, Ashley Owusu had a chance to make it a two-possession game with a driving layup, but good Baylor defense contested the shot as the Bears grabbed the rebound. The ball found the hands of a wide open Sarah Andrews, but her three bounced off the rim, and the defensive rebound from Reese secured the 79-76 win for the Terps.

Mimi Collins, Chloe Bibby, and Sellers played the entire game for the Terps, while Owusu played all but one minute. Collins attributed her team’s conditioning as the main reason why multiple players could play the whole game. 

“Keith [Pough] prepared us very well as a team with our conditioning. We like to get up and run so with us being in the best shape possible it just helps us the best. I’m young with young legs so playing 40 minutes doesn’t really bother me. I prepared to be in the best shape, also my teammates prepared to be in the best shape, so I feel like we’re just ready,” Mimi said.

Maryland will continue to be shorthanded, as both Benzan and forward Faith Masonius did not travel with the team to the Bahamas, so multiple Terps may be needed to play the entire game again.

NC State comes in winners of four straight, each by over 20 points, following an opening game loss to South Carolina. The Wolfpack are headlined by center Elissa Cunane, who’s averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game. Cunane isn’t afraid of contact, as she’s already gone to the free throw line 19 times only a few games into the season.

Stanford enters the Bahamas 3-1, with their only loss coming against then-No.25 Texas at home on November 14th. The Cardinals are led by guard Haley Jones, averaging 14, 7, and 6 per game. Similarly to the Wolfpack’s Cunane, Jones has gone to the free throw line 19 times, including an 11-13 line from the stripe against Texas.

The game against NC State will start early on Thanksgiving day, at 11 a.m. The matchup with Stanford on Saturday takes place later in the day, at 3 p.m. in Nassau.

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