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Entering Thursday, the Maryland women’s basketball program could comfort itself in the knowledge that all five of its losses this season occurred at the hands of opponents ranked in the top eight of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
For the second game in a row, the Terps dug themselves into a hole in the first half that was too deep to climb out of, falling 95-89 against host Ohio State on Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
With Sunday’s 69-49 rout at the hands of No. 8 Michigan, Maryland (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten) suffered back-to-back losses to conference opponents for the first time since 2018 when that squad fell to Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan in an eight-day span. The program is also 4-3 to open league play for the first time since 2014 when it went 4-3 as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Terps played without coach Brenda Frese, who had joined her family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to mourn the death of her father, William “Bill” Frese, who died Sunday at the age of 89 after a long battle with prostate cancer. His funeral is scheduled for Friday.
While stating she thought Brenda Frese would have been pleased with the team’s fight during the game, associate head coach Karen Blair, who filled in for Frese, acknowledged there is much work to do before Sunday’s home game against Northwestern.
“We’re not satisfied with the loss,” she said. “That’s not what Maryland basketball is about.”
Maryland did see a familiar face in Taylor Mikesell, who spent her first two years in College Park and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019 before transferring to Oregon. Now with the Buckeyes, the senior shooting guard shredded the Terps’ defense for a game-high 33 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Mikesell was joined in double figures by junior point guard Jacy Sheldon (24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds) and junior power forward Rebeka Mikulasikova (10 points and five rebounds). Ohio State improved to 14-3 and 6-2.
Blair said there was no buildup to the team’s first meeting with Mikesell.
“Taylor is obviously a great player, and we’re obviously familiar with her. But for us, our preparation was that she was another 3-point shooter,” Blair said. “Going into this game, you knew that her and Sheldon had been on fire and had been playing really well. So we came in with the focus of trying to slow those two down. And I thought Sheldon created a lot of easy shots for Taylor today and credit to Taylor for knocking them down.”
Graduate student shooting guard Katie Benzan said the players must fortify their perimeter defense, which allowed Wolverines junior shooting guard Maddie Nolan to score 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting from 3-point range.
“We’ve got to lock down in that area because we can’t really let players like Maddie Nolan and Taylor Mikesell get off like that,” she said. “We’re going to have to adjust our game.”
All five of Maryland’s starters reached double digits — a group led by sophomore forward Angel Reese’s 22 points and 11 rebounds (her 11th double-double of the season) and graduate student power forward Chloe Bibby’s 20 points and seven rebounds. At one point, Bibby scored nine consecutive points — all on 3-pointers – in the final two minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
Turnovers continue to haunt the Terps. In their last three losses, they committed 19 turnovers in a 70-63 overtime loss at No. 6 Indiana on Jan. 2, 17 against Michigan on Sunday and 18 against Ohio State on Thursday. Those three games rank in the top three for giveaways this winter.
But Blair made a distinction between the games against the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
“I think the tempo of today’s game was completely different than what the Michigan game was,” Blair said. “It was a fast-paced game, and some of those mistakes came from us trying to play fast. We know we’ve got to clean up our halfcourt play. We know that as a team. … We don’t like the turnovers, but it’s something that we’re going to take time to clean up.”
Trailing 45-37 at halftime, the Terps began forging a comeback in the third quarter, opening the frame on a 10-4 spurt to narrow the deficit to 49-47 with 6:23 left.
But the Buckeyes responded with a 10-2 run over 2:42 span. Mikesell fueled the burst with five points, and Ohio State took a 65-57 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter, Maryland clawed its way back to make it a two-possession game twice at 87-83 with 42 seconds left and 89-85 with 32 seconds remaining. But the Buckeyes relied on layups in transition by Sheldon and graduate student power forward Tanaya Beacham and then free throws by Sheldon and Mikesell to close out their fifth consecutive victory.
In the setbacks to Michigan and Ohio State, the Terps have trailed by 10 points by the end of the first quarter. Bibby, however, chose to focus on the team’s competitive spirit.
“Against Michigan, I thought we really lacked that,” she said. “There’s areas of improvement of course, but today, I think we got one percent better just in the areas of wanting to win and being hungry for it. So obviously we’re disappointed in it. If we clean up that first quarter, then we’re in the ball game.”
NORTHWESTERN@NO. 12 MARYLAND
Sunday, 1 p.m.