Tonight I’ll start with two encouraging signs and a fashion report. The encouraging signs: Up and coming freshman Tierney Pfirman was sighted in the pre-game lay up line and shoot around. The optimist in me says we may see her on the floor for a few minutes on Sunday in Charlottesville. The other encouraging sign was the view of Katie Rutan without the nose guard she’s worn since breaking her nose in the game at North Carolina. In fashion notes, tonight was the annual “Play 4 Kay” night so the pre-eminent color was nominally pink. The visiting Clemson Tigers wore all pink while the Terrapins wore white uniforms with pink numbers and trim. The operative color for the first half, though, was black - as in black hole. I think there must have been one of those inside or at least near the Comcast Center sucking the energy out of both teams and a meager crowd of 3,741.
Clemson won the opening tip and scored the first basket of the game on an offensive rebound that would represent half their total offensive rebounds for the first twenty minutes. Bouncing back from her sub par night in Durham, Tianna Hawkins scored the first 8 Terrapin points on three jump shots and two free throws. At the first media time out, the score stood Hawkins 8 Clemson 4. The Tigers continued to trail Hawkins until they scored their eighteenth point with just under three minutes to go in the half. The scoring outburst came a a timely moment for the Terps as Alyssa Thomas picked up two fouls in just over 2 minutes of play and would not return until under eleven minutes remained. The teams seemed determined to engage one another in mostly listless sloppy play for the bulk of the half as they combined for 23 baskets and 24 turnovers. A sequence with about ten and a half minutes to go in the half epitomized Maryland’s utter rebounding dominance. Malina Howard grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed Hawkins jumped and was fouled on the put back. She missed the and one but T-Hawk grabbed the rebound off the missed free throw, rebounded two missed put back attempts before scoring and completing a traditional three point play. The five point play gave the Terps a 17-8 lead. Maryland scored eleven of the next fifteen points to take their largest lead of the half at 28-12 with just under seven minutes to play. They held the lead in the fourteen to sixteen point range for about four minutes of game time when some poor shot choices, unwise clock management, and sloppy ball handling allowed Clemson to creep back within eight at 33-25 as the teams went to the locker room. With her 17 point and ten rebound effort, Hawkins accounted for just over half the Terrapin scoring and about 35% of their rebounds.
Although Hawkins scored the first basket of the half, Alyssa Thomas began to assert herself in the second. The Terps opened the half with a 19-8 run that stretched the 8 point halftime margin to 17. In the first eight minutes of the half, Maryland scored 22 points. AT had eleven of those points and T-Hawk had the other eleven. Malina Howard served up the trust buster breaking up the Thomas Hawkins scoring monopoly by banking in a jumper from the top of the key with 11:46 left in the game. The Terps superior athleticism had taken control of the game outpacing the undermanned and under-talented Tigers. Hawkins scored her thirtieth point on her final basket of the night with about 5 minutes left coincidentally giving Maryland a 30 point lead. Her 30 points fell just three short of her career high in the game at Loyola earlier this season. She also had a game high twelve rebounds. Alyssa Thomas was the only other Terp in double figures with 17 as the two Terrapin stars combined to outscore Clemson 47-45. Hawkins who finished with 12 rebounds (leaving her 8 shy of 1,000 for her career) did have double digit company on the boards, though, with Alicia DeVaughn pulling down eleven and Malina Howard securing ten. Overall, the Terps out rebounded the Tigers 48-32. The big second half lead gave Coach Frese the opportunity to spread the minutes more evenly than in recent games with former walk on Sequoia Austin playing the most minutes (26) in her career. Katie Rutan also played only a welcome 26 minutes after her work horse efforts in the games at Wake and Duke. Hampered by her early foul trouble AT also played a light 26 minutes. Oh, and there was another Caitlin Adams sighting as the volleyball transplant was rewarded with three minutes on the floor.
The Terps take to the road with games in Charlottesville on Sunday and at Boston College on Thursday before returning home for the rematch against Duke on February 24th.
In other news, incoming freshman guard Lexie Brown was named to the McDonald's All-American team.