The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Diamond Miller exits early as the No. 17 Terps open with a road win

Maryland 88, George Mason 51

Maryland's Diamond Miller gets some help from her teammates after suffering an injury in the Terps' season opener Monday at George Mason. (Scott Taetsch for The Washington Post)

Diamond Miller’s senior season was off to a spectacular start — until it wasn’t.

Maryland’s star guard looked like her old self Monday night as she dominated host George Mason in the first quarter. The highlights came quick. She got a steal, went coast to coast, split a pair of defenders and finished a layup high off the glass while getting fouled. The accompanying scream and flex were vintage Miller. Moments later, she hit a pull-up three-pointer and shuffled back on defense, tapping her temples with three fingers and sticking her tongue out for the crowd.

That was the Miller who was one of the best players in the nation as a sophomore two seasons ago. But her night took a scary turn when she left the game early in the second quarter with a knee injury. No. 17 Maryland cruised to an 88-51 victory in its season opener, but Miller never returned.

The injury appeared to be to the same knee that bothered Miller all last season and required surgery in April. She had outscored the Patriots by herself before exiting, but her night ended with 11 points.

“From our end, we just didn’t think it was worth pressing anything,” Coach Brenda Frese said. “It’s nothing too serious. We’ll continue to have her evaluated once we get back home, but just more out of precautionary [reasons]. It’s a long season ... so just wanted to be smart with it.”

Despite losing its star, Maryland never trailed and was never in danger. The Terps, with eight new players, looked like a promising bunch in their debut. The program was hit hard by transfers and graduation — notably Ashley Owusu heading to Virginia Tech and Angel Reese choosing LSU — but Frese found success in the transfer portal, too.

Maryland opens the Kevin Willard era with a win over Niagara

Gone were five of last season’s top six scorers, but in came Ivy League player of the year Abby Meyers and a host of other accomplished upperclassmen. Meyers became the No. 1 option Monday with Miller out and finished with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Bri McDaniel chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds, and Shyanne Sellers had 14 points and four rebounds. Lavender Briggs scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists. But forward Emma Chardon, like Miller, suffered a knee injury in the first half and did not play in the second.

“It was great to represent Maryland,” said Meyers, who attended Whitman High and was a Maryland fan growing up. “I was telling my teammates in the fourth quarter, I was like, ‘I’m impressed with us.’ Just coming out, not knowing, in terms of expectations, how we would take the nerves in the first game and all, but I think that everyone just really stepped up and kind of set the tone for us.”

The challenge ratchets up significantly Friday when Maryland hosts top-ranked South Carolina, the defending national champion.

Taylor Jameson led George Mason with 15 points as the Patriots shot just 29.1 percent.

“For us, on the build with this program, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Patriots Coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said. “And so it was good for our girls to see the challenge, to see a team that has been at the top and ranked nationally for many years.”

Here’s what else to know about Monday’s game:

Have Faith

Forward Faith Masonius started for the Terps in her first game since tearing her ACL in a loss to Indiana on Jan. 2. The senior wore a bulky brace on her knee but moved well and was active defensively. She finished with two points and three rebounds.

Gunshots shattered her hoop dreams. Now she wants them back.

Roster rotation

Starting alongside Miller were Meyers, Masonius, Briggs and Elisa Pinzan. That lineup is essentially four guards with Masonius; without much size on the roster, Maryland will play plenty of small ball.

Sellers, the reigning Big Ten sixth player of the year, was the first to sub in, followed by freshman Gia Cooke and McDaniel. All 12 available players got into the game.

“I think our freshmen stepped up a lot,” Briggs said. “I was trying to just pull my weight and continue shooting even though I was missing.”

On the move

The Terps may be a bit small, but they offset that with a ferocious pace. Maryland looked to run at every opportunity — off rebounds, following turnovers or after any other change of possession. That put plenty of pressure on the Patriots’ transition defense.

Maryland employed a full-court press early and often, which helped it jump to a 13-2 lead. A 15-0 second-quarter run helped the Terps lead 39-17 at halftime.

“I thought the starters set that tone [with] just great effort and energy,” Frese said. “Kind of like they were shot out of a cannon. Their energy and excitement for the game I thought really showed. ... This is how we’re going to have to play.”