This weekend the road to a top four seed and a bye in the first round of the ACC Tournament got both easier and harder for the Maryland women’s basketball team; easier because the Terrapins stifled Georgia Tech beating the Yellow Jackets 66-57 in Atlanta on Sunday; harder because the Terps went into Atlanta having lost up and coming freshman Tierney Pfirman to a knee injury. In Pfirman’s case, ESPN reported that it was a dislocation suffered in yesterday’s practice with the full extent of the damage not yet determined. From the available television angles, it looked as though she did not make the trip south with the team.
As for the game itself, after Tech jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, the Terps solved the Yellow Jacket press on a breakaway that led to two free throws and two open layups. Both teams suffered some cold shooting to open the game but Tech tied the score at seven on a three point shot after about a two minute drought. The cold shooting continued through the middle of the first half but a handful of Maryland turnovers allowed the home team to open up a six point lead at 23-17 on two free throws coming out of the under eight media timeout. The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes but an offensive put back by Tech with four and a half minutes remaining would be their last points of the half. The Terps turned up their defense and closed the half on a 9-0 run to lead 32-29 at the break. As one might expect with the newly depleted roster, the bulk of the scoring fell to Maryland’s two stars, Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins. Entering the game, Hawkins led the ACC in scoring and was second in rebounds while Thomas led the league in rebounds and was second in scoring with both players averaging double-doubles. At the half, Hawkins had 12 points and 9 rebounds while Thomas had eleven and five.
As they have in several games earlier this season, the Terps drank some sort of elixir at halftime and came out and dominated the first eight minutes outscoring Georgia Tech fifteen to four and effectively wrecking any plans the home team might have had to ramble back into the game. This stretch belonged almost exclusively to Alyssa Thomas. The junior forward scored ten of Maryland’s first twelve points and assisted on the other basket. Her outburst included two highlight reel shots and would have been even greater had she converted on two traditional three point play opportunities. After Tech narrowed the lead to eleven, freshman point guard Chloe Pavlech made Maryland’s only three point jumper of the game to give the Terps a 56-42 lead with just under five minutes remaining. However, with perhaps a bit of fatigue setting in, the Terps suffered through a stretch of turnovers, poor shooting and missed free throws as the Jackets went on an 11-2 run that included a pair of made three pointers to close within five at 58-53 with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The Terps would settle down and closed the game by outscoring GT 8-4 over those last two minutes to secure the victory and final margin of nine.
Alyssa Thomas led Maryland in scoring finishing with 28 points including 17 in her monster second half in which she added five rebounds and five assists to finish the game just two assists short of her second triple double of the season. Tianna Hawkins and Alicia DeVaughn also notched double-doubles with pulling down fourteen boards to go along with sixteen points and DeVaughn grabbed twelve rebounds while scoring eleven. The Terps shot a respectable 44 percent for the game while holding the Jackets to 36 percent. More impressively, though Georgia Tech came into the game leading the ACC averaging over 18 offensive rebounds per game, the Terps held them to only nine while securing a commanding 52-29 rebounding edge.
If there are worrisome aspects to the Terrapins’ recent performances and current roster situation (and as Maryland fans can we help but worry) they are these: turnovers, three point shooting, and fatigue. For the third straight game, Maryland exceeded 20 turnovers. After shooting 6 for 8 at Virginia Tech, the Terps are 4 for 13 from behind the arc over the two succeeding games and have lost for some time a developing weapon in Pfirman who was averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds and was a threat to score from the outside. All five starters logged well over 30 minutes today in Atlanta with Thomas playing all forty and DeVaughn the “laggard” at only thirty-three. With North Carolina coming into Comcast Thursday night, and Duke late in February, as well as trips to Durham, Tallahassee, and Charlottesville (always a tough place for Maryland to play), the minutes threaten to pile up. For now though, let’s worry about Thursday on Thursday and take some time to enjoy a nice road win and a 6-1 record in the ACC.