COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)Coach Brenda Frese figured her team would be healthier entering this exciting stretch of nonconference challenges.
No. 3 Maryland isn’t at full strength yet, but the Terrapins passed their first big test anyway.
Ashley Owusu scored 24 points and Maryland handed No. 6 Baylor its first loss of the post-Kim Mulkey era, 79-76 on Sunday. This was the start of a stretch in which the Terrapins face Baylor, No. 5 North Carolina State and No. 7 Stanford in the span of a week.
They also take on No. 1 South Carolina next month.
”I felt like, with everyone coming back this year, I didn’t want to be surprised in March, and it felt like a little bit that we needed better competition to prepare us,” Frese said. ”I didn’t think we’d be so shorthanded in these games.”
The Terrapins (6-0) won this game without guard Katie Benzan, who was out with an illness. Guard Diamond Miller has been working through knee problems and played only 10 1/2 minutes.
Two Maryland players went the full 40 minutes, and two others played over 39.
”It just says that we’ve got to be well conditioned and we can’t take plays off,” Owusu said. ”We’ve got to play the same way from start to finish.”
The Terrapins led 76-65 before a furious Baylor rally nearly forced overtime. The Bears had the ball down by three, but Sarah Andrews missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
”We got a great shot for a great shooter, who had made a couple in the game,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said.
This was the first significant test for the Bears (3-1) under Collen, who took over after Mulkey left for LSU. NaLyssa Smith had 30 points and 15 rebounds for Baylor, and Jordan Lewis added 29 points.
Owusu scored inside to give Maryland a 76-65 lead – and give herself 1,000 points for her career. Lewis then answered with a 3-pointer, and her three-point play made it a five-point game with 2:01 to go.
Smith made a layup after a Maryland turnover to make it 76-73, but then Angel Reese scored inside while drawing a foul on Smith with 1:08 remaining. The free throw pushed the lead back to six.
Lewis made another 3 to cut the margin to three, and the Bears had a chance to tie it after Owusu’s driving effort missed.
Maryland finished with four players in double figures. Reese scored 17 points despite picking up four fouls and playing just 19:11. Chloe Bibby scored 16 points and Mimi Collins contributed 10.
Baylor: Smith and Lewis provided plenty of offense for the Bears, but they finished with 15 turnovers to Maryland’s nine, and that made a difference in a tight game.
Maryland: The Terps won despite shooting 40% from the field. Maryland used only seven players, although Collen said Benzan’s injury affected Baylor’s approach, too.
”Honestly, a big part of our game plan was to post up Benzan,” Collen said. ”They just put one more big player out there, so that made those mismatches way less of a mismatch.”
Maryland went 17 of 18 from the line and Baylor was just 4 of 5. That turned out to be crucial.
”We didn’t get to the free throw line. They were more physical than us,” Lewis said. ”The tone was set from the beginning of the game.”
Baylor has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for 131 straight weeks. The Bears probably won’t be punished too much for a road loss to the No. 3 team, but that streak could be in jeopardy.
Baylor: The Bears face Fordham on Thursday at the Cancun Challenge.
Maryland: The Terrapins face N.C. State on Thursday at an event in Nassau, Bahamas.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25