COLLEGE PARK — Ashley Owusu lobbed the inbounds pass to Angel Reese and sprinted off the baseline. Reese took two dribbles to get almost directly under the basket, with all-American NaLyssa Smith draped on her back, late in Sunday’s matchup between No. 3 Maryland and No. 6 Baylor. The Terrapins’ star sophomore powered through Smith’s outstretched arms and bounced off the body contact for a bullying move in the post. The layup was good — and one.
Mimi Collins came in with a chest bump that forced Reese to the baseline, where she stared at the roaring Xfinity Center crowd. She then gathered her teammates and shouted about closing out the final 68 seconds.
Reese’s three-point play ended up being the difference in a 79-76 statement victory for the Terps. She grabbed the final rebound after Baylor’s Sarah Andrews missed what would have been a game-tying three-pointer, then sprinted down the court while pointing to the ceiling.
“We’ve made it known what our goals are, and I thought today we absolutely took a step toward that,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, whose team won its first five games by an average of 34 points. “I thought we showed tremendous resiliency, especially down the stretch. It was great to be able to learn a lot about your team and how they were going to respond.”
Owusu led Maryland (6-0) with 24 points, reaching 1,000 for her career, and six assists. Reese finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and two steals in 19 minutes while dealing with foul trouble. Bibby (16 points, five rebounds) and Collins (10 points, eight rebounds) played all 40 minutes. Freshman Shyanne Sellers was on the court for all but 22 seconds, and Owusu played 39 minutes.
“Just playing my game,” Owusu said. “Just not trying to overthink it or do too much — just kind of reading what the defense gives me and then taking it from there. ... [Reaching 1,000 points] means a lot, especially to be able to do it in a game like this with so many fans.”
For the Bears (3-1), Smith had a game-high 30 points and Jordan Lewis added 29.
Baylor led 21-17 after the first quarter, but the Terps used the second quarter and the beginning of the third to build a 13-point lead. Bibby made a pair of three-pointers that each gave Maryland the lead, and the Terps grabbed a 42-35 advantage at halftime.
Smith took over late in the third quarter, and she and Lewis scored every Baylor point in the fourth. But Maryland always had an answer. Owusu hit tough pull-up jumpers throughout and got to the free throw line with physical drives to the basket. A Reese transition layup extended the lead to 74-63 before the Bears went on a 10-2 run that set up Reese’s late heroics. One last Lewis three-pointer got Baylor within 79-76 with 38 seconds left, but Baylor couldn’t find the tying basket.
Maryland shot just 40% but forced 15 turnovers and scored 17 points off them. And the Terps’ defense smothered everyone but Smith and Lewis.
“Any time you take over a program like Baylor with the expectations what they are, you’re planting the seeds every day, and you want to see growth,” said first-year coach Nicki Collen, who replaced Kim Mulkey after she left for LSU. “And sometimes you don’t see them immediately. It’s going to take time. ... I thought we stayed poised for a team that’s not super deep with a starting backcourt that’s never played together before against a team of basically all returnees.”
Maryland passed its first test Sunday and has two more this week. The Terps will fly to the Bahamas on Tuesday to play in the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in Nassau. They face No. 5 North Carolina State on Thursday and No. 7 Stanford, the defending national champion, on Saturday.