Taylor Mikesell does not like taking days off.
Maryland’s staid freshman guard has a routine, and it necessitates making 1,000 shots on practice days and 500 shots on game days and, most importantly, taking no days off if she can help it. It works for 11 months of the year. But in March, few things help a player more than fresh legs and being able to adjust on the fly.
So the week before the NCAA tournament, which No. 3 seed Maryland began with a 73-51 win over No. 14 seed Radford in the first round Saturday, Coach Brenda Frese shut Mikesell down.
“It took me a little bit to accept it. I still haven’t fully accepted it,” Mikesell said after the win at Xfinity Center. “After the Big Ten tournament I had to take the whole week off from shooting in the morning, and that was really (pause) awful. (pause) I hated it. But I feel better now. My legs feel better. So I guess I thank her for that.”
Mikesell drained four three-pointers against Radford with those fresh legs, which put her at 94 for the season to set Maryland’s single-season record previously held by Kristi Toliver, who had 91 in the 2008-09 season.
Mikesell will get a chance to pad her stats when the Terrapins (29-4) face sixth-seeded UCLA, an 89-77 winner over No. 11 Tennessee, on Monday in College Park.
To break the record in her first career NCAA tournament game was a bonus for the guard, whose season has been remarkably consistent for a freshman: Mikesell has scored at least 10 points in 26 of the 33 games. On Saturday, she led the Terrapins with 16 points while junior Stephanie Jones had 12. Freshman Shakira Austin had 11 and nine rebounds.
Kaila Charles celebrated her 21st birthday with 14 points and nine rebounds, which she collected in gold sneakers.
“I just wanted to shine today,” she said with a wave and a smile.
Charles put on a glittering performance as usual, and there was plenty of other milestones to celebrate for Maryland. The Terps improved to 14-0 in first-round games in College Park and advanced to their ninth consecutive second round. They halted Radford’s program-record 18-game winning streak.
But it was the freshman duo of Mikesell and Austin who stood out the most.
“I’ve seen those young ladies on the travel circuit for years, and to see their impact right away for this program, for the caliber of program this is, Taylor and Shakira are going to have outstanding careers here,” Radford Coach Mike McGuire said. “. . . To see what Taylor’s doing and what Shakira’s doing as freshmen, if you could project what they could become here, I mean, they’re going to be special.”
Mikesell’s success was that much sweeter because of her last outing with Maryland, a six-point performance in the Big Ten tournament title game that left her in tears after she shot 2 for 9 from the field.
Charles told her to shoot through the pain, and Mikesell eventually processed the loss to Iowa in her even-keeled, logical way.
“It was definitely frustrating, but I know that every loss, in my opinion, is going to be a lesson, and it's something that we can learn from,” Mikesell said. “We saw triangle and two from them both times we saw them, and people are going to keep running it until we prove that we can break it.
“This season is a long season. People are going to miss shots and have bad games. But I mean, we saw Kaila’s bounce-back game from the Iowa game when we played them in the regular season. It was a 30-point game against Minnesota.”
Against Radford (26-7), Mikesell shot 6 for 13 from the field and 4 for 10 from deep.
“It was just being patient,” Mikesell said. “If I miss four, then I’m going to make the next four.”
Eleven of Mikesell’s 16 points came in the second half, by which time the Terps had just about put the Highlanders away. A 9-0 run to end the first half gave Maryland a 33-20 lead at halftime and a third quarter in which they outscored Radford 25-15 put the game out of reach for good. With 3:08 left in the third quarter and the Terps up 14 points, Mikesell broke Toliver’s record.
“Yeah, it’s cool,” Mikesell said, breaking into a smile while standing in the hallway outside of the Terps’ locker room after having demurred in front of TV cameras. “Especially it being Kristi Toliver, the type of legacy that she had here. When you say Maryland basketball, she’s one of the first people you think of. It’s definitely an honor.”
Mikesell joind Austin as a Maryland record-breaker: The center has blocked 83 shots, most by a freshman in team history and the most by anyone in the program since the 1978-79 season.
Personality-wise, the guard and the center are opposites. Mikesell is as collected and buttoned-up as Austin is wild and bold, which is never more apparent than when the two are asked the same question: How much it means to have a fellow record-breaking freshman to share the season with.
“Shakira was a McDonald’s all-American, and me and [freshman Olivia Owens] were nominees,” Mikesell said earnestly, “so coming in with that type of freshman class was really cool.”
“It’s amazing,” Austin said, getting out of her seat and punching the air. “I feel like we’re the best duo on the country, and knowing that I’m going to have three more years with her, we’ll be on this journey together? It’s going to be great. We’re opposites, but we have this connection.”
Mikesell, restrained as she is everywhere except the court, engenders those types of strong emotions when she plays basketball.
Take it from Destinee Walker, who led Radford with 15 points Saturday.
“She would come off those screens, I would see her shooting, [and] I’d say, ‘Welp, let’s start jogging back on defense,’ ” Walker said before she was informed Mikesell had broken a school record. “She broke the freshman record? Oh the school record! Oh, I’m happy for her. Somebody tell her that.”
Walker paused, then smiled.
“I just wish she would have missed.”