The crowd greeted Taylor Mikesell with a smattering of boos during pregame introductions and loud cheers when she missed her first shot attempt of the game. The former Terrapin’s return to XFINITY Center began unceremoniously, and things only got worse for her from there.
In a much-anticipated battle of top-10 teams, No. 8 Maryland (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) stifled Mikesell – once a standout guard for the Terps who transferred after two seasons in College Park – and ran away with a 90-54 victory Sunday over No. 10 Ohio State (20-4, 9-4 Big Ten).
The win came just three days after the Terps looked overmatched against another elite conference foe in a 96-82 loss at No. 6 Iowa. On Sunday, Maryland responded emphatically: The 36-point victory was the program’s largest ever against a top-10 opponent.
“I was extremely frustrated after the Iowa game just because I felt like we did not perform the way we needed to perform for that game, and we knew we were capable of competing and beating teams like Iowa,” Terps senior guard Diamond Miller said. “So coming out [Sunday] was extremely crucial for us just to show that we can play 40 minutes and we are one of the top contenders in the Big Ten.”
After allowing Iowa star Caitlin Clark to score 42 points last week, the Terps fared much better Sunday at slowing down Mikesell, limiting the Buckeyes’ leading scorer to 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting. One of the most prolific three-point shooters in the history of Division I women’s college basketball – her 411 career threes ranks 10th all-time – Mikesell did not connect from beyond the arc until late in the second quarter.
It was a far cry from Mikesell’s previous meetings against her former team. In two prior matchups versus Maryland, the former Big Ten Freshman of the Year was nearly unstoppable, averaging 31 points per game and shooting 23-of-29 from the field, including 10-of-12 from three.
“Just everything was better about them today, but specifically to the defense, they kind of threw some junk out there and tried to take Taylor Mikesell away early on,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought in the first quarter, we got enough good shots, but we didn’t capitalize, and I think after that, we got a little bit anxious and took some quick bad shots trying to get back in the game.”
Maryland yielded 29 first-quarter points in its loss to Iowa but followed Sunday by holding Ohio State to seven points in the opening quarter, building a 19-7 lead that was never meaningfully in doubt. The Terps led by as many as 39 and limited one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams to 54 points, almost 29 below its season average.
“That for us is the difference: our mentality,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “When we’re a connected unit like we were tonight, we could change up our defenses. We were in box-and-one, full-court press, our halfcourt man – we can do a lot of things to throw the rhythm off of a team. We tried a lot of things against Iowa, but unfortunately we weren’t as connected on the defensive end.”
Somewhat serendipitously, the game turned into a matchup of two players, Miller and Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon, who are likely to be selected in the 2023 WNBA Draft. Sheldon, a 2022 first team All-Big Ten selection, sat out the previous 18 games with a foot injury but returned to the Buckeyes lineup Sunday.
Miller, however, won the day. Relentlessly driving to the paint all afternoon, she led all scorers with 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, including the 500th of her career. Senior guard Abby Meyers added 22 points, while sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers contributed 19.
“I was definitely pissed off, you know?” Miller said. “They were very aggressive towards me, and I guess I just showed them what real aggression is.”
Among those in attendance to scout Miller and Sheldon were Washington Mystics general manager Mike Thibault and head coach Eric Thibault. The Mystics own the fourth overall pick in the draft, which is scheduled for April 10.
Maryland will continue its Big Ten schedule on Feb. 9 with a trip to Northwestern (8-14, 1-10 Big Ten), which currently sits at the bottom of the conference.
Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s signature win:
1. Fans come out
A lively crowd of 11,176 was on-hand for Maryland’s victory Sunday, trailing only the 12,566 who attended the Terps’ Dec. 11 win over Connecticut as the largest of the season. It marked the first time in five years that Maryland has drawn at least 10,000 fans to XFINITY Center in multiple games in the same season.
The Terps fed off the crowd all game. In the third quarter, Sellers and Miller celebrated and-one opportunities by high-fiving fans in courtside seats.
“Crowds matter,” Frese said. “What we were able to do today and our students coming out and the crowd and the groups that were here – it has a big impact, and Iowa did the same thing to us. It has a big impact on your visiting team.”
2. Standings check
Maryland took a big step Sunday towards securing a coveted top-four seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which begins March 1 in Minneapolis. With five games remaining, all against conference opponents, the Terps are in sole possession of third place. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan (19-5, 9-4 Big Ten), which is tied with Ohio State in fourth place. The top four finishers in the regular season standings will earn byes into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The Terps will face a difficult road to closing out a top-four seed. According to the Massey ratings, Maryland has the toughest schedule in the country when factoring in remaining games. Those include a matchup on Feb. 12 against Illinois, which received votes in the most recent top 25, as well as rematches on Feb. 21 vs. Iowa and Feb. 24 at Ohio State.
3. Pinzan honored
Prior to the game, the Terps held a ceremony honoring point guard Elisa Pinzan for scoring her 1,000th career point. The native of Murano, Italy, who transferred to Maryland this season after recording 916 points at South Florida, achieved the milestone during the Terps’ loss at No. 6 Iowa on Feb. 2.
The Terps now have five 1,000-point scorers on their roster. Meyers, Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs each notched their 1,000th career points earlier this season. Miller reached the mark last year and ranks 17th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,482.
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.