The Maryland women's basketball team wraps up their three game home stand at 2 pm Sunday when they host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Jackets come to town with a 12-5 overall mark and sit at 2-2 in conference play. The Terps, ranked sixth nationally, enter the game with a 15-1 mark and are a perfect 3-0 in ACC play. At first glance, the game looks like one Maryland should win but... (And isn't there always a but?)
Let's start by taking a deeper look at that 12-5 mark. Tech opened the season with three easy wins against lower level competition at home. Then they hit the road where they suffered back to back losses at then fourth ranked Tennessee and twenty-first ranked Georgia. After stringing together six straight wins, the Yellow Jackets then dropped another game to a ranked team losing to Oklahoma State in a holiday tournament in San Juan. Their next loss came when they opened their ACC schedule with a home loss to second ranked Duke. After a win at Clemson, they traveled to Syracuse where they ran into a hot shooting Brianna Banks and dropped a six point decision to the Orange. They then evened their ACC record with a sixteen point win at home over Wake Forest. The point to note here is that four of their five losses have come to ranked teams and the fifth on the road at the home of a very capable (as the Terps saw Thursday night) league opponent.
Next, although Maryland holds a dominating 48-17 advantage all-time and has won seven of the last ten against Georgia Tech, Nearly all of the games have been close hard fought battles. They include a double overtime win in 2008, a 2011 game at Tech that needed a buzzer beating three pointer from Kim Rodgers for the Terps to emerge victorious, and a game in 2012 at Comcast Center where the Terps overcame a 20 point second half deficit.
Under head coach MaChelle Joseph, Tech has employed a physical, trapping, aggressive style of play that has often bothered the Terrapins and held them below their scoring avaerage. Tdifference has often been the Terps having one player for whom the Jackets have had no answer. In the double overtime win, it was Crystal Langhorne. In the twenty point comeback, it was Alyssa Thomas. Over her career, Thomas has had some of her best offensive performances against the Yellow Jackets. In her last four games she's scored 24, 23, 29, and 28. The twenty-four point effort came in the huge comeback game where AT scored 18 in the second half and the twenty-nine points came in Maryland's 68-65 win in the 2012 ACC Championship game.
So who and what are the individual and team challenges the Terps will face on Sunday? Individually, 6' 2" freshman Kaela Davis leads Tech in scoring at 18.1 points per game followed closely at 17.9 from Elizabeth Seton graduate Tyaunna Marshall. The senior guard is also second in rebounding to sophomore Roddreka Rogers (and yes, she is Rodney Rogers' daughter) with both pulling down just under eight rebounds a game.
Speaking of rebounding, this will be an interesting matchup of strength versus strength. Georgia Tech leads the ACC in offensive rebounds grabbing nearly 20 per game. Maryland, on the other hand, has built their league leading rebounding margin largely on the strength of their 32.5 defensive rebounds. The Yellow Jackets can put a lot of size on the floor with most of their post play being split between two 6'5" players - Shayla Bivins, who will likely get the start, and Nariah Taylor. The two combine for about nine points and seven rebounds.
Though they aren't as strong defensively as past Tech squads, giving up nearly 64 points per game, the Jackets do force about 20 turnovers. Protecting the ball will again be one of the keys for a Terrapins win. I'd expect Maryland to try to push the pace offensively and perhaps play some zone against an ineffective (29% three point shooting) jump shooting team.
Game time: 2:00 pm Sunday
How to watch: The game will air on TERPSTVPremium for a fee. Or you could come out and see it live.