“It was like a relief, I guess, because I knew it was coming, so it was kind of in the back of my head,” Jones said. “I mean, I had [my teammates] behind me, supporting me, so just to have that is great.”
Reaching the benchmark didn’t take much from Jones — she needed seven points and finished with nine points and four rebounds in a reflection of the slightly downsized roles No. 9 Maryland’s veterans have filled during the nonconference slate.
On Sunday, freshman point guard Ashley Owusu (19 points, six assists, two turnovers) and freshman wing Diamond Miller (17 points) led six scorers in double figures. The rookie players steered a thorough drubbing of the Bobcats: Maryland (5-1) shot 59.7 percent from the field, had just 10 turnovers, grabbed 16 steals and limited Quinnipiac (1-3) to just four points in the third quarter. Austin added 16 points and seven rebounds.
“One of our most complete games,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said.
Young players paving the way has been business as usual this year. Owusu leads the Terps with 14.7 points and 29.8 minutes per game, and sophomores Austin (13.5 points per game) and Taylor Mikesell (13 points per game) are second and third on the scoring list.
In previous years, it was Jones and classmates Kaila Charles and Blair Watson who were tasked with carrying Maryland — that’s part of the reason Jones reaching 1,000 points so early is unsurprising; Charles entered this season 15th on the list with 1,528 career points — but six games in, the seniors’ slightly altered roles have started to take shape.
In a win against Delaware on Nov. 17, the 6-foot-2 Jones was taken out of the starting lineup for the first time in 72 games in favor of the 6-foot Watson, whose ability to guard smaller players on the perimeter suits Maryland’s defense this year and whose three-point shooting spreads the floor. Jones is still what Frese calls the team’s anchor on defense, though the defense doesn’t necessarily always run through the senior — Jones holds down the frontcourt with communication, defensive vision and experience as much as she does with her physical abilities.
Charles, meanwhile, has shifted from the team’s leading scorer for the past two years to something of a Swiss Army knife. Her scoring has dipped from 17 points per game last season to 11.7 this season, but she consistently fills out the stat sheet. On Sunday, the Maryland native had 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“I’m just doing whatever the team needs me to do,” Charles said. “So just getting more rebounds, getting steals, more assists. Just being an overall player so I can make an impact even if my shots don’t go in or if I’m not scoring. Just being an overall player so I can still make an impact for the team. . . . I like the fact that we have six players in double figures, and we’re going to need that for the whole season to get as far as we want to. It’s a little different from the past couple years, but it’s fine with me.”
On defense, Watson sets the tone on the perimeter while the 6-5 Austin patrols the paint. The Terps’ new switch-heavy defense has proved successful so far as Maryland prepares to travel to Florida for games against Clemson and Belmont in the Daytona Beach Invitational over the Thanksgiving break.
“She’s exerting so much effort. She plays so hard,” Frese said of Watson. “. . . I can’t say enough of the place that she’s in. I love that she doesn’t need to score points for us. She just wants to be able to help this team in any way. She’s been just a huge part of our success.”