The Maryland women's basketball team made the short trip up I-95 to Towson's new SECU Center where they slowly but methodically declawed the Tigers in a 90-53 rout. Eleven players saw action for the Terps and ten of them scored. Sophomore guard Chloe Pavlech and freshman A'Lexus Harrison traveled with the team but didn't dress for the game.
As we continue watching the evolution of the 2013-2014 edition of Maryland women's basketball, here are some observations from game five:
Early on, the Terps look to have one player who is ready to play from the opening tip. Anyone who guessed Alyssa Thomas wins the prize. In three of Maryland's five games this season the senior national player of the year candidate has carried an otherwise sluggish team through the opening minutes of play. Saturday night was no exception. Thomas scored the Terrapins' first six points and had pulled down five rebounds in the first three and a half minutes of play. For the fourth time in five games Thomas would register a double-double in the first half. She'd play only nine minutes in the second half.
Slow starts could be an issue for the Terps as the season progresses and the competition toughens. Now, this early, it could simply be a product of the team simply adjusting to its identity as they learn to play with one another and utilize their depth but it is something to keep an eye on. Towson had one lead Saturday night coming at 3-2 after a jumper with eighteen and a half minutes to play in the first half. Maryland responded with two more Thomas baskets and a three point jumper by Laurin Mincy to force a Tigers' time out. Towson scored five straight coming out of the break and managed to hang around for much of the half when a pair of free throws pulled the Tigers within one at 22-21 with only 6:46 to play in the half.
However, as we've seen, Maryland is capable of big runs and scoring quickly. After needing over thirteen minutes to reach that twenty-two point total, the Terps closed the half on a 24-9 run. Their lead first reached double digits when they ran off twelve straight after the Tigers had closed to within one. Towson scored five in a row to pull within eight but Mincy's layup gave the Terps a lead that would not fall below double digits again.
If you're not producing, you're not playing. Terrapin coach Brenda Frese is already showing a high level of confidence in her bench and especially her young players. Lexie Brown got her second consecutive start and finished with three assists and no turnovers. She sees the floor and manages the game well and once the freshman's shots start to fall (and watching her release, they will) she will be a tremendous weapon for Maryland. When Alicia DeVaughn picked up a quick early foul, Frese immediately pulled her to the bench and inserted freshman Brionna Jones. It's early but Jones played a career high and highly productive twenty-one minutes finishing with ten points, three rebounds two assists and a blocked shot. Though she was somewhat limited by foul trouble DeVaughn only saw seven minutes of action Saturday night.
Despite all the hype around Alyssa Thomas (including my own above), Maryland has a lot of offensive weapons. For the fourth time in five games, the Terps had at least four players score in double figures. Saturday they had five. In addition to Thomas and Jones, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Mincy each added fourteen and Brene Moseley dropped in eleven while registering a team high five assists. Both Walker-Kimbrough and Jones look to be the real deal. Jones continues to be a presence down low on both ends of the floor but especially on the offensive end where she not only knows how to carve out space but has a good sense of where to pass the ball out when she's double teamed. Shatori seems to have a lot of tools in her toolbox. She can make mid-range jumpers, has the range to go beyond the arc (2 for 2 last night), slashes to the basket and at time can just out jump people for the ball. She also has a nice sense of the game. Late in the second half, after the Terps had built their lead to twenty-five, she scored ten straight points six of which came on three pointers from the deep corner. The next time she caught the ball in that spot, she made a ball fake to get the defender off her feet then drove the baseline. When the double team came, she made the right pass to Tierney Pfirman just beyond the foul line for an open jumper.
As for the second half of the game, the Terps opened the half on a traditional three point play by DeVaughn to go up by nineteen. The Tigers would close to within 14 on three occasions the last of which was followed by a 13-2 Terrapin run that stretched the lead to 66-41 with just over twelve minutes remaining. With seven minutes left and Maryland up by 25, Shatori went on the aforementioned 10-0 run before Moseley added a pair of layups to close out a fourteen point run for Maryland. Said Frese, "I loved that mentality tonight. We never played the score, we played the possession. And we got better. You just saw player after player staying hungry treating the most important possession as the possession they were in. We got better defensively and we got better in our transition. It was a really good second half for us."
The Terps return to the court Monday night to take on the Drexel Dragons at Comcast Center before flying off to spend Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico for two games in the San Juan Shootout. On a personal note, I'm headed off to Atlanta for Thanksgiving week and may be out of commission (or at least sporadically available) but I plan to return to action the first week of December.