Lesson number four for the Maryland women's basketball team came Tuesday night at the Comcast Center and part of the lesson, as the George Washington Colonials learned, is that you probably don't want to be the first opponent Maryland faces after a loss. The Colonials were fresh off an upset of then tenth ranked Cal and had the look of a team that might present another test for the Terps who were returning to the court after their first loss of the season to UConn. It's one thing to have the look of a team ready to challenge Maryland but it's another to actually challenge them. The final score: Maryland 87 GW 51.
I don't think we gain much insight from a detailed recap of the game play by play. This game belonged to Maryland from the opening tip. "I really liked how we responded tonight," said Coach Brenda Frese. "I thought we came out and played really hard for forty minutes. I liked that fact that we improved in every area tonight - defensively, rebounding, sharing the basketball and saw a lot of improvement tonight and that's what it's about in terms of this process and the season." The stats fully support the coach's sentiment as the Terps won every segment between media timeouts until late in the second half when, by that time, they had built their lead to over thirty points. Maryland had probably their best defensive effort of the season holding GW to 29 percent shooting in the first half and 35 percent for the game. The Terrapins dominated on the glass finishing with a 53-32 margin and had 19 assists on 33 baskets. We also had an Essence Townsend sighting with 5:24 to play and Sequoia Austin followed with 2:14 remaining.
With that said, here are some of the other salient points from lesson number four:
(1) We may have seen the start of a new era at point guard for Maryland as Lexie Brown found her way into the starting lineup for the first time in her career. Though the freshman had a tough night from the floor shooting just 2 for 9, she ran the team well and dished out seven assists to only two turnovers. On the season, Brown now has 16 assists to only four turnovers. "She's been consistent," Frese said. "She has great passing ability for our post players and she's got a great feel for the game."
As for the other freshmen, they continue to be freshmen. After a subpar performance against UConn, both Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones bounced back with solid performances Tuesday night. Both reached double figures in scoring. Not that they needed much of one, but Walker-Kimbrough gave the Terps a lift off the bench when she entered the game in the first half scoring seven of her fifteen points including dropping in Maryland's only made three pointer of the half. She added four rebounds and four assists with no turnovers in a very controlled performance. Jones also gave the Terps solid minutes racking up 11 points and 7 rebounds in just twelve minutes of action. One area where her potential really shone through was in fundamental low post play making herself available to receive entry passes. "We saw that when we recruited her. She has great hands and a great ability to seal the post," Frese said of her freshman.
(2) Alicia DeVaughn can be a dominant force when she asserts herself. The senior center had a lackluster first half with only one basket and a single rebound. In just ten minutes of play in the second half, she pulled down six rebounds - five on the offensive glass - and scored nine points including going a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line. Asked about the difference between the two halves she said, "Getting called out at halftime about my performance in the first half and knowing that that's not acceptable for me being a senior and a leader of this team." She also did some of the little things well - setting screens and making herself available for inbounds passes and as a safety valve when her teammates were in trouble.
(3) Alyssa Thomas continues to show, early in the season, why she's a legitimate national Player of the Year contender. The senior again had a double-double in the first half and finished with eighteen points and fourteen rebounds. Colonials head coach Jonathan Tsipis, who had recruited Thomas when he was an assistant at Notre Dame, remarked on Thomas' growth as a leader on the court in addition to the growth in her basketball skills.
(4) You can run with the Terps if you're UConn or perhaps another top tier team but be prepared to be run out of the gym if you're not. The Colonials tried to play an up tempo game but simply couldn't match Maryland's speed, size, and depth.
(5) Coach Frese and her staff are still experimenting with this squad. The Terrpains showed some zone play and some trapping defenses they hadn't tried to this point in the season, "We talked about it as a staff. We want to build upon our defense. We feel like it's time in terms of really challenging this team and making other teams be uncomfortable. And I think as we learn our team, we're discovering our best pressing team and out best matchup zone team. So I think being able to find those different wrinkles is key."
She's also willing to experiment with different combinations of players. At one point in the first half the Terps had a lineup on the floor of Thomas, Tierney Pfirman, Laurin Mincy, Chloe Pavlech, and Katie Rutan. Said Frese, "Every game is going to be different. I thought with GW we could exploit some things with our guard play so we could play smaller. In the first half we weren't getting a lot of rebounding from our post position so I thought, ‘Let's go with our quickness and let's go with our guard play.' A lot is dictated by how we play. We have a lot of weapons we can throw at teams so just be ready when you're number's called."
Coach Frese and her staff will be calling numbers again on Saturday night when the Terps take the trip up I-95 to tackle the Towson Tigers in a7 pm tip-off.