However, they are running mates off the court and form a duo that had to grow up fast on the court in leading the Maryland women’s basketball team to a No. 9 national ranking even though it lost five of its top six scorers from last season.
“We were inseparable, but I didn’t know her before we came,” Miller said with a laugh. “I mean, we really clicked when we first met each other. Our personalities are different but the same. She seems quiet, but she’s not. She fools everybody. She’s loud. It’s just when you don’t know her, she seems quiet.
“We're funny together. That's my friend. I like her.”
In a college basketball season unlike any other because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Terrapins had even more unknowns than expected. Offseason defections hit the program hard after it reeled off 17 consecutive wins and was a legit national championship contender before the pandemic ended last season early. Maryland always reloads with an abundance of talent, but it still lost all five starters from its victory in the Big Ten tournament championship game.
There were already high expectations for Owusu and Miller. They were the keys to the country’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2019, which included Faith Masonius and Zoe Young, but they weren’t necessarily expected to shoulder this much of a load this quickly. Owusu ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 18.8 points per game and 20th with 6.7 rebounds. She was named the Naismith Trophy national player of the week after averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 assists and six rebounds in three wins last week. Miller is 12th in the league with 17.5 points and 23rd with 6.5 rebounds.
Not only have they carried the load, but the new-look Terps are second in the nation in scoring at 94.1 points per game and are on pace to set the program’s all-time scoring record.
“Obviously, they’re seeing the reality of that jump that it takes from your freshman to sophomore year and that consistency factor,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of those two. They put in a ton of really hard work in the offseason and in a pandemic and just working on their own. I think you can see that with the plays that they’re making for the team. They own it. They want the responsibility. … So it’s been great to be able to see that progression.”
Owusu focused on her jump shot during the offseason after her elite driving ability helped her earn Big Ten freshman of the year honors. She has the ballhandling skill and speed to get by most defenders and the strength not only to play through contact but to create it herself. Owusu is a nightmare in transition and has increased her shooting percentage from 44.6 last season to 51.0 this season. Frese said the game has slowed down for her, and that has led to increased confidence. Owusu is patient enough now to evaluate when to distribute and when to take over.
Her season highlight, thus far, came against No. 18 Indiana. She dribbled right against Jaelynn Penn and, in a split-second, crossed back over left toward the elbow area and buried a pull-up jumper. The move was so quick and decisive, it left Penn falling to the ground hurt and needing assistance to make it back to the bench. Owusu might have driven all the way to the paint and into traffic last season, but the jumper was the result of a summer shooting “too many to count.”
“It put a smile on my face,” Owusu faintly said when asked about the play.
Then there’s the boisterous Miller, from whom the words flow freely. That personality trait may be the product of coming from a family of basketball junkies. Her father, Lance, played at Villanova and overseas. Her sister Adreana played at Ohio State and La Salle, and her other sister, LaNiya, plays at Wagner. Little brother Landen is a freshman in high school with his own hoop dreams. The family battles are epic and go on well after the sun sets.
Miller was a McDonald’s all-American coming out of high school. She was an important piece off the bench last season, scoring 7.7 points in 19 minutes, and has made a leap as a sophomore. Whereas Owusu’s game features power, from the ferocity of her drives to the velocity on her passes, Miller’s has a bit more finesse. She seems to glide around the court with long strides but has the size to be active in the paint. She is a triple-threat to shoot, pass or drive from the perimeter.
Miller’s go-to this season has been grabbing a defensive rebound and weaving through smaller players to go coast-to-coast for a score. Foul trouble has been her biggest nemesis.
“Her ceiling is ridiculously high,” Frese said. “She’s a three-level scorer. And then when you think about 2½ more years of adding strength in the weight room and she kind of gets her emotions in check. Sometimes she gets really, really high or low, and that comes with maturity.
“But her overall game, to see where she was a year ago to where she is now, it’s crazy to think what the endgame is going to be for her and getting to the next level.”
There were doubts about what this team would look like after losing so much from one of the country’s best teams last season. But Owusu and Miller have flourished around big-time incoming scorers such as Katie Benzan (15.1 points per game) and Chloe Bibby (13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds). The team would have been even more scary had the 2020 No. 1 recruit, Angel Reese, not broken her foot in the fourth game. Redshirt sophomore Mimi Collins (10.5 points, 7.2 rebounds), who played with Owusu at Paul VI in Fairfax County, Va., has stepped in for Reese, and the team has continued to roll.
Miller had a clue after their first team scrimmage.
“We all knew we were going to be a scary team, especially if we connect like the way we did,” Miller said. “I’m scared for all our opponents because we’re, like, everybody on this team is a bucket in a sense. We all can score. We’re all pretty much three-level scorers.
“We all just have fun. … I think it’s scary. I like it.”