In an 81-56 loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Nov. 11, the Maryland women’s basketball team dearly missed the presence of star guard Diamond Miller, who sat out with a knee injury. On Sunday afternoon, the Terrapins’ second game against a ranked opponent was a different story.
Behind a career-high 32 points from a healthy Miller, No. 19 Maryland held on for a 73-68 victory at No. 17 Baylor. In the middle of an early-season gauntlet in which they will face five top-25 teams before Christmas, the Terps notched a signature victory in their first true road test of the year.
“Obviously, you saw with Diamond her ability to just take over a game was really special to be able to watch,” coach Brenda Frese said.
After three quick turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, Miller was briefly pulled before returning midway through the first quarter. From there, the preseason All-Big Ten selection started to take over, tallying 12 points in the second quarter and punctuating the third period with a buzzer-beating three pointer. She finished with the most points in a game by a Terp in nearly five years.
“Once I got settled in everything, I could see the floor, and the basket seemed like the ocean, to be honest,” Miller said.
Baylor was without leading scorer Aijha Blackwell, who sustained a leg injury Tuesday against SMU.
The Terps will travel Tuesday to Fort Myers, Florida before taking part in three games over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Here are three things we’ve learned about Maryland during its 4-1 start to the season:
1. Diamond Miller is more than ‘A-OK’
When introducing her roster during media day, Frese led off with Miller, declaring that her senior co-captain looked “A-OK” in her return from offseason knee surgery.
Through the early part of the season, Miller has proven to be even better than “A-OK” for the Terps. Following her first career 30-point performance Sunday, the projected WNBA lottery pick is not far off from the heralded 50/40/90 stat line, shooting 49.0% from the field, 40.0% on three-pointers and 80.0% from the free throw line.
“Diamond’s by far the biggest competitor I’ve ever played with,” senior guard Abby Meyers said.
“You can’t really stop her [because] she has her up and under, she can finish any way around the rim. … She’s definitely a lethal weapon that any person wants to have on their team.”
Injuries have been the only thing to limit Miller this season. The New Jersey native hurt her knee early in the second quarter of Maryland’s season-opening win over George Mason and sat out the Terps’ subsequent loss to South Carolina.
For each of the three full games she’s been on the floor, Miller has led the Terps in scoring.
“Healthiness is the motto for this season for me and for all my teammates,” Miller said after Maryland’s victory over Fordham on Nov. 13.
2. The chemistry remains a work in progress
After spending the offseason cobbling together a team through the transfer portal, the Terps have been working to meld a roster of five transfers, four freshmen, and four returning players into a cohesive unit. Through five games, Maryland’s chemistry remains a work in progress.
“We have a lot of different players that play different styles, and they all like to play differently from one another,” senior guard Lavender Briggs said before the Baylor game. “So it’s hard, but patience is the key and just knowing we’re all trying our best.”
In a sign of how the team is still learning how to play together, the Terps were nearly derailed Sunday by turnovers. Maryland gave the ball away five or more times in each of the first three quarters. Throughout their current three-game winning streak, the Terps have turned the ball over 56 times.
“Watching a lot of turnovers is painful when you have such a great offensive team and so many weapons,” Frese said. “We’re not going to panic because it’s really early in the season, and we’re building our chemistry.”
3. The Terps have been up to the challenge of their punishing schedule
With five ranked opponents in their first 12 games, Frese has said that the Terps’ early-season schedule offers “no mercy.” In a competitive loss to defending national champion South Carolina and a tough road win at perennial power Baylor, Maryland has thus far appeared to meet the challenge of playing some of the toughest competition in the country.
Without Miller, the Terps were undermanned and undersized against the vaunted Gamecocks but managed to stay within striking distance until the middle of the third quarter. Against Baylor, Maryland led by as many as 14 en route to its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
After they return from their Thanksgiving trip to Florida, the Terps will continue to be tested. In December, Maryland will travel to No. 9 Notre Dame before hosting No. 22 Nebraska and No. 5 Connecticut.
“This is why we created the schedule was to really learn about ourselves and play this tough of a schedule to prepare us for what lies ahead,” Frese said.
Sapna Bansil is a pediatric occupational therapist turned journalist who is enrolled in the graduate program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.