It was, as Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, "deja vu all over again" at the Comcast Center Saturday afternoon. When the buzzer sounded at the end of Maryland's absurdly comfortable 110-53 win over the Wofford Terriers, the final stat line for Alyssa Thomas read 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The senior from Harrisburg recorded the fourth triple double of her career and second in the last three games. Of Thomas' success, Coach Frese said after the game, "Never take those for granted because they're so difficult. She's a joy to be able to watch. And those things don't happen without great teammates knocking down shots and making plays as well."
Since I am trying to maintain the season's educational theme, let me quickly dispense the lessons from Saturday's game. Lesson one: Even without their starting point guard, Maryland only needs to play one half of a basketball game to score enough points to beat the worst team from the the Southern Conference. The Terps scored 56 points in the first half and 54 in the second and held Wofford to 53 for the game.
Lesson two: Alyssa Thomas is probably the most versatile player in college basketball. And I include the men's game in that assessment. True, the level of competition she's faced of late is levels below the teams she'll face when the Terps begin their ACC schedule on January fifth. True, she has the talent to pretty much score and rebound at will against teams like Wofford. And it's true that she has as talented a group of teammates as she's had at any time in her career. However, other players have had similar advantages and not pulled off two triple doubles in their career let alone in a three game span.
Lesson three: This Terrapin squad is still learning to play each possession rather than playing the score. They haven't fully reached that level yet as you'll see in my recap but they are closing in on it.
Now let's take a look at what happened in the game. Wofford had clearly seen the scouting report that said to play a zone defense against the Terps. Despite this, Maryland had a good first possession working the ball inside to Alicia DeVaughn who missed the short jumper. As my Aussie "daughter" would say, "No worries." (Actually, she'd probably say, "No wuckers," but that's another story.) Wofford missed their first shot and Thomas, grabbing the rebound, started her historic march by bursting out of the pack, and driving the length of the floor before finding Laurin Mincy cutting along the baseline for an easy layup. The Terps led 8-5 and used some crisp passing and sharp cuts through the Terriers' zone to open up space for back to back top of the circle three point jumpers first from Shatori Walker-Kimbrough followed quickly by a similar shot by Brene Moseley. "Obviously when you can shoot like we were shooting the basketball," (over sixty percent from the three point line in the first half) "our guards can make plays. But we're making unselfish plays. We're looking for each other so we're making easy plays for each other," said Frese.
With Lexie Brown away from the team for personal family reasons, Moseley got her first start of the season and played a solid all-around game finishing with 14 points on six of ten shooting while handing out three assists without a turnover. Shatori continues to be a spark off the bench. The Terps second leading scorer on the game and the season to date would finish with seventeen points a career high four three pointers.
In a nice bit of serendipitous timing, just as Brown needed a few days away, Chloe Pavlech was cleared to return to the floor for the Terps. Pavlech entered the game with 14:21 to play in the first half and saw a total of 15 minutes of action. Though her shot looked a bit rusty, she did score five points and hand out five assists without a turnover.
The most competitive stretch of the game occurred between the under eight and under four minute media timeouts when the Terps had one of their few lapses in concentration and execution. During this stretch, Maryland had four of their six first half turnovers and gave up a three point jumper and two layups. Despite this, they still managed to increase their lead from 32-17 to 44-28.
Ahead by sixteen, Maryland went on a 12-0 run to close the first half and a 14-5 run to open the second despite picking up four turnovers in the first seven minutes of the half. The combined runs built the lead from sixteen to thirty-seven. Like Shatori, Tierney Pfirman also provided a spark off the bench with the best shooting day of her career. The Pennsylvania sophomore scored fourteen points on 7 for 7 shooting. She added five rebounds and a team leading four blocked shots.
The game also featured earlier than usual on court appearances from Essence Townsend who had a minute of first half playing time and seven minutes in total and Sequoia Austin who entered the game with 9:23 to play and didn't leave the floor. On a day when twelve Terrapins played and twelve Terrapins scored, both seniors had respectable stat lines. Townsend finished with 3 points, a rebound, an assist and 2 blocked shots while Austin added 7 points,a rebound, and an assist.
For the curious, the edifice of Thomas' triple double was built as follows: She finished the first half with eight points seven rebounds and two assists. She scored the Terps second basket of the second half to reach double digit scoring with 19:07 to play. She pulled down two early rebounds but didn't reach ten until she grabbed Malina Howard's missed free throw - scoring on the offensive rebound with 11:22 remaining. At this point, AT had added three second half assists. She doubled her second half total on the Terps' next three possessions twice finding Brionna Jones for layups before getting the ball to Austin for an open three from the left corner. With eight assists now on the board and nearly nine minutes to play, the triple double was clearly in sight. Assist number nine came on a Malina Howard jumper with 7:07 left. Three minutes later Thomas found Townsend on the inside for a layup that would have sealed the deal but the senior center was fouled in the act of shooting and couldn't quite finish the play. The sequence repeated on the Terps' next possession but again, the New Jersey senior didn't finish. The next time down the floor, AT found Moseley open on the left wing but her three point attempt rimmed out. Finally, Thomas hit Pfirman cutting down the left side and a new chapter in Maryland history was written.
The Terps will take on the College of Charleston in the second game of the Terrapin Classic on Sunday. The Cougars defeated Howard in Saturday's second game of the firs round. Game time will be approximately 1:30 pm. Howard and Wofford will face off in the early game starting at 11:00 am.