Failing in nearly every facet of offense early Friday, the Maryland women’s basketball team finally began to make headway midway through the second quarter.
Forward Brianna Fraser laid in an uncontested layup, and guard Channise Lewis made a three-pointer to put the Terps up by seven, their biggest lead to that point. That prompted Morgan State coach Edward Davis to call a timeout.
But, just as it looked like the Terps were about to pull away from a much weaker opponent, Maryland didn’t build off the momentum.
With forward Shakira Austin wide open under the basket, guard Kaila Charles shuffled her feet and was called for a travel. The Terps got it inside to Austin on the next possession, but the freshman missed a point-blank lay-in. Yet another turnover followed — one of 11 in the first half — and suddenly the Bears were within just four.
While the Terps went on an 14-3 run after halftime and eventually pulled away to win their first game of the Puerto Rico Classic, 68-44, it was yet another game that was closer than it had to be, with the team’s defense carrying an anemic offense.
“We started the game slow,” coach Brenda Frese said. “The team was challenged at halftime, and I thought we had a great response in the second half.”
In the opening quarter, the Terps shot just 36.8 percent, but ball security was an even greater issue. With seven turnovers, most of which were unforced travels or errant passes, Maryland (5-0) couldn’t find any rhythm offensively.
And it got even worse in the second period.
The Terps shot a slightly improved 38.5 percent from the floor and had three fewer turnovers, but they still managed just 12 points in the second quarter. With a 26-12 rebounding and 7-0 assist advantage, Maryland nonetheless had just a 28-22 lead at the break.
After halftime, guard Taylor Mikesell knocked down a pair of pair of triples and a midrange jumper, and the Terps went on an 14-3 run to take a 42-25 lead. The sharpshooting freshman buried another deep attempt, and, in an instant, Mikesell had scored 11 straight points for Maryland.
Mikesell’s 14 points in the quarter helped the Terps open a lead as big as 20, but the Bears cut it to 50-35 entering the final period.
Maryland scored the first nine points in the fourth quarter and finally pulled away late. Mikesell led the way with 17 points, and Charles scored 16. Fraser added 10 points and 11 boards, while Austin grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Terps shot a much improved 15-for-26 from the field after halftime, but for them to beat a talented Georgia team Saturday, they must improve upon the 23 turnovers they committed against Morgan State. Last week, though, Maryland showed up when it counted on the road against then-No. 10 South Carolina, putting together its best showing of the year in its biggest test.
“Stephanie Jones gave us a tremendous consistent effort for 40 minutes, Taylor Mikesell gave us some great threes in the second half and Kaila Charles got going,” Frese said. “But we’re going to have to continue to want to step up and play a 40-minute game.”