Seniors Chloe Bibby, Katie Benzan setting standards in hopes of long Maryland NCAAs run
SAN ANTONIO — Entering the locker room at halftime of her team's first-round NCAA Tournament game, Maryland coach Brenda Frese delighted in hearing seniors Katie Benzan and Chole Bibby discussing strategy and motivating their teammates.
The game was already a wrap. As expected, the No. 2-seed Terrapins led No. 15-seed Mount St. Mary's by 31 points in what became a 98-45 rout Monday at the Alamodome.
What excited and encouraged Frese was the intensity and focus displayed by her senior leaders in getting some of the less experienced players on the roster to focus on the task at hand despite the insurmountable lead.
"I can't say enough about our senior leadership," said Frese, whose 25-2 Terrapins will face No. 7-seed Alabama Wednesday in the Round of 32. "I came into the locker room at halftime and I could hear Chloe Bibby and Katie Benzan talking to the team. It's great when you walk into the locker room and it's being player-led and it's being led by your veterans that have a ton of experience to help the youngins through it."
Of the five Maryland players to score in double figures, four were playing in their first NCAA Tournament game. Sophomores Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller led the way with 20 and 19 points, respectively. The Terrapins recorded 34 field goals on 21 assists and committed only 10 turnovers.
"They play a beautiful brand of basketball," Frese said. "The unselfishness. Making easy plays for each other. When you look at our assist-to-turnover ratio, they just play the right way."
During an 18-0 run in the second quarter, Benzan received an inbounds pass from Bibby and scooted the length of the court for a layup that personified Maryland's up-tempo offensive philosophy.
The Terrapins lead the nation in scoring and are the only team in the nation to average at least 90 points during the regular season.
Benzan, a graduate transfer from Harvard who joined the Terrapins after originally signing with Texas, leads the nation in three-point shooting at 50.6 percent.
Benzan decided to attend Maryland after Texas made the coaching change from Karen Aston to Vic Schaefer.
"I just wanted to find a competitive program where everyone was very passionate and just loved the game," Benzan said before the start of the season. "I wasn't necessarily focused on my role but more of just the competitive environment (where) I wanted to spend my last year."
Benzan helped transform Maryland's three-point game this season. Literally. She has started all 27 contests, averaging 13.0 points.
Benzan's presence as a deadly three-point threat wasn't required against Mount St. Mary's (17-7) as the Terrapins attempted only 13 shots beyond the arc despite averaging 33.6 per game. She scored five points on only three shots, including a lone three-pointer and recorded four assists. For the season, however, Benzan has converted 40 percent of Maryland's three-pointers. She set a school record with nine three-pointers against Iowa.
A year ago, Maryland converted 6.6 three-pointers a game and knocked down 36.6 percent from long range while averaging 82.8 points. This year, the Terrapins are making 8.3 three-pointers a game at a 40.6 percent clip to lead the nation while averaging 91.5 points.
"She's a great addition," Owusu said of Benzan. "She helps spread out the floor. She leads the nation in three-point shots. Having her on the floor is big for us."