The news from Sunday's final game in the Terrapin Classic was not Maryalnd's methodical 103-51 deconstruction of the College of Charleston Cougars. The Classic's MVP Alyssa Thomas is again the big newsmaker from Comcast Center. No, the Terrapin's star forward didn't register a second consecutive triple double.
In fact, Thomas finished the day without an assist. "I don't know what went wrong today," she said jokingly when asked about that. "Too much scoring," piped in Coach Frese about her star forward who registered a season high 28 points just four shy of her career best. When she pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on the put back with 4:40 remaining, AT reached a bunch of significant numbers in one fell swoop.
It would be noteworthy enough to say that this represented her twelfth consecutive double-double this season. But the rebound was not merely her tenth of the game, it was also the one thousandth of her career making her only the fifth Terp in Maryland basketball history to reach that rarefied number. (The others are Crystal Langhorne, Marissa Coleman, and Tianna Hawkins for the women and only Len Elmore for the men.)
But there's more.
Thomas's double double Sunday was the fiftieth of her career. You say you want more? Let's throw in that the 28 points give her 1,900 for her career. Only Langhorne, Coleman Kristi Toliver, and Vicky Bullett have reached that number for the Maryland women. (Six men Terrapin have surpassed that number.)
In her post game remarks, Maryland coach Brenda Frese said of the first half, "That's probably the best basketball we've played. We were clicking on all cylinders and I loved the fact that it was both ends of the floor defensively as well as offensively." What did she see? Well, the first half went like this:
First, Lexie Brown was back with the team, back in the starting lineup, and eager to make her presence felt. By the time the game was a minute and a half old, the freshman from Atlanta had recorded two assists, a blocked shot and a turnover. When the first media timeout rolled around Alyssa Thomas had six points, Tierney Pfirman made her eighth straight shot carrying over from Saturday, the College of Charleston had not registered a field goal, and Maryland led 12-3. Pfirman's streak would end at nine but she would miss only two shots for the weekend.
Leading 17-5 the Terps ran a fast break that should have been seen by so many more than the 3,650 in attendance (including, perhaps, the men's team). Malina Howard grabbed a rebound of a Cougar miss turned and whipped a pass across half court to Pfirman who had run out along the left sideline. Without missing a beat, Pfirman turned and hit a streaking Thomas for the easy layup. Two passes and the ball never hit the floor. "We definitely work on getting out in transition - doing the one pass out to the kick ahead to finish the layup," Pfirman said. "Malina kicked ahead and I found Alyssa running the opposite side lane and I just passed to her." At the under twelve minute media timeout, the Terps led 21-7 and had eight assists on their first nine baskets.
Watching the Terps slice and dice their man to man, the Cougars switched to a zone midway through the half. It made no difference. By the next media timeout, Maryland's lead had ballooned to twenty and by the under four minute timeout, the lead was thirty. Alyssa Thomas had 18 points matching her Saturday total and had taken one more shot than she had in all of Saturday's game. The Terrapins reached fifty points with over two minutes to play in the half, Sequoia Austin entered the game with over a minute to play and Maryland had a 54-15 lead when the buzzer sounded.
But it wasn't just the thirty-nine point lead that Coach Frese saw. She saw an eleven rebound edge for the Terrapins. She saw a mere six turnovers. She saw the Terps make eleven of their twelve free throws. And she saw Maryland finish the half with sixteen assists on twenty one made field goals. "We're having fun," she said. "We're playing for each other. We're making easy plays for each other and it's contagious. Once someone makes a play for you, it's easy to be able to give back. That's something we've spent a lot of time talking about and they're able to see how easy we can make the game with the talent we have on this roster." So I guess that's the lesson from Sunday's blowout. The Terps are having fun making plays for each other.Let's hope the fun continues in the ACC.
On the defensive end the Coach saw the Terps hold the Cougars to 15.6% shooting. In fact, while Afreyea Tolbert shot 5 for 11, the rest of the Cougars missed all 21 of their shots.
The Terps were not quite as sharp in the second half. They turned the ball over nine times, allowed the Cougars to more than double their first half shooting percentage, and had only a nine rebound margin. But it was all academic. Maryland still outscored Charleston by thirteen and reached the century mark for the second consecutive game and the fourth time on the season. All thirteen Terps played and only Chloe Pavlech and Essence Townsend didn't score. Surprisingly only three players reached double figures. Joining Thomas were Shatori Walker-Kimbrough with fifteen while Pfirman added ten. Laurin Mincy let Maryland with seven assists. Brown dished out five while Katie Rutan and Shatori added four each. Malina Howard came up just short of her first double-double of the season with nine points and nine rebounds.
Playtime is now over for the Terps. The real games - the second season - start Sunday in Chapel Hill where Maryland will open their final ACC season at number 10/11 North Carolina. Coaches like to call this first part of the season the non-conference schedule so I think I caught a bit of fire in Coach Frese's eyes when I asked how the team was looking forward to their first ACC game now that the preseason was over. But when you've won your last four games by an average of 53.5 points and have scored over 100 points in three of those games...
Said Thomas, "We're definitely looking forward to our first ACC game. Like the coaches have been saying, it's our second season so we have a few days to prepare for them and it's going to be a tough road game."
Said the coach, "We're all looking forward to the next step and the level of competition improving. No one wants to continue to play in these types of blowouts. You want to be tested and we're excited for these matchups."
As for the expectations of the freshman about to experience her first ACC road game, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added these thoughts, "No expectations. I have to trust in my coaches and my teammates. Preparation is going to be big and I thin k we can go down there and give them our best shot."
One thing will be different about the Maryland's last visit to Chapel Hill as a member of the ACC. The Tar Heels will be led by Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder as Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell continues her treatment for leukemia that was diagnosed in October.