Austin led four Terps in double figures with 22 points, including 20 in the second half. Mikesell had 16 points — her best scoring performance since she had 23 in a Dec. 18 win at Georgia State — and a season-high eight assists. It all looked like a flashback to the duo’s snappy freshman year, when they dazzled unprepared defenses with a one-two punch from under the basket and beyond the arc.
This year has been more of a battle. Mikesell and Austin, like Maryland (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten) in general, have struggled against Big Ten defenses that are better equipped to deal with their skill sets. Both players have had to adjust in their second seasons in College Park — Austin into a much more crucial part of the offense and Mikesell into a new position after she primarily played shooting guard last year.
But as Indiana Coach Teri Moren said after the game, Mikesell’s recent ups and downs made her no less of a target on the Hoosiers’ scouting report. Indiana’s plan going into Monday’s game was to limit the touches for wing Blair Watson and Mikesell, but the Hoosiers simply didn’t execute as Maryland got into a rhythm.
“It’s already been well stated: [Mikesell’s] a gym rat. She loves to get up thousands of thousands of shots. Those kids like that have a very short memory, right?” Moren said. “Until she graduates from here, she’s always going to be a guard in this league that can have a night like she had tonight on us.”
Maryland coupled Mikesell’s and Austin’s offensive performances with a defensive effort in which the Terps held Indiana to six points in the second quarter. It was enough to hand the Hoosiers (14-5, 4-3), who had early-season wins against then-No. 5 South Carolina and then-No. 21 Miami, their third straight loss in a tough stretch of games against then-No. 22 Iowa and current No. 22 Northwestern.
Maryland, on the other hand, is trending upward during Big Ten play.
Coach Brenda Frese agreed that this three-game stretch — Monday’s win and last week’s home win over Nebraska and road victory over a ranked Michigan squad — is the best her team has played all season. Maryland will face another ranked team Sunday — Northwestern — after a Thursday trip to Illinois.
“Something we’ve spent a lot of time talking about is consistency and stacking days. . . . I think the difference since [a Jan. 9 loss at Iowa] is this team has taken ownership of their team,” Frese said. “Now I can’t get them to stop talking, which is a great thing, because the accountability is there, the voice is there. It’s not being coach-led. It’s being player-led.”
The Terps’ defense stymied Indiana’s half-court offense and set up Maryland well on the other end of the court. The Terps shot 47.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. They also outrebounded Indiana 40-28.
Austin shot 6 for 12 from the field and 10 for 13 from the free throw line. Mikesell’s eight assists came with four turnovers, but she shot 6 for 7 from the field and 4 for 5 from three-point range.
“Just got real comfortable out there, just seeing the pace of the game and who’s hot at what time,” Mikesell said.
Seniors Kaila Charles (12 points, nine rebounds) and Stephanie Jones (12 points) supported their younger teammates after getting Maryland off to a strong start.
The Terps opened with an 8-0 run on baskets from Charles and Jones and two from Watson, but they let the early advantage wither away with four turnovers in the final 2:05 of the first quarter. The Hoosiers stormed back to trail 16-15 heading into the second quarter and briefly took the lead on Ali Patberg’s three-point play. But then the Terps started to squeeze Indiana on defense again, and this time their effort did permanent damage.
Maryland maintained a 13-point advantage at halftime, and Mikesell made it an even 20 late in the third quarter with her third three-pointer of the game. The Terps pushed their lead to 24 midway through the fourth.
Grace Berger led Indiana with 21 points and Patberg had 15, but they couldn’t prevent Maryland from earning its eighth straight win in the series.
“In a way, being back out there, having fun, it took a while to get that back this year,” Austin said. “I would say a little bit [it felt like] last year, just the same energy. But I guess we’re learning, too, playing smarter, playing more aggressive.”
Read more on college sports: