The mighty Delaware State Hornets came to Comcast Center Saturday night to take on the Maryland women's basketball team and, unsurprisingly, the Terps ran them out of the gym racing to a 93-44 rout. In truth, had Brene Moseley not suffered an uncharacteristically poor shooting night and had the Terps shot their average 78% from the free throw line they would likely have soared past the century mark for the second consecutive game.
The Terps sprinted to a 7-0 lead on a three pointer by Katie Rutan and back to back buckets from Alyssa Thomas before the visitors managed their first shot prompting a Delaware State timeout just a minute and a half into the game. The timeout worked to settle the Hornets, who were without their leading scorer Tierra Hawkins (yes she's Tianna's twin sister), and they began to find the holes in Maryland's press and attack the basket. They managed a pair of baskets but the Terps had still extended their lead to eleven when, with seventeen minutes to play in the half, Alyssa Thomas picked up her second foul. Thomas left the game and wouldn't return until after the break. When you see the halftime score, you'll understand when I say that one of the lessons from Saturday's game is that even without Thomas, Maryland would probably dominate the MEAC.
In truth, when Thomas first went to the bench, Delaware State managed to hang around for a few minutes cutting Maryland's lead under ten three times and trailing 24-13, the same eleven point deficit at the under twelve minute media time out. By the next media timeout, the Terrapins' lead had grown to fourteen and, despite, an unusual four point play by the Hornets on a made basket and a one plus one on a foul away from the ball with six minutes to play, Delaware State trailed 37-20 at the last media timeout before halftime. The Terps closed the half on an 8-2 run to roll up a 45-22 lead. The Terps probably had a few more turnovers (10) than Coach Frese would have liked but even without Thomas - who finished the half with just those two early baskets and no rebounds - Maryland held a 32-19 edge on the boards.
Thomas came out hard to open the second half scoring the Terps first four points and grabbing two offensive rebounds. By the time she left the game with just under six minutes to play, the senior from Harrisburg had added fourteen points to her first half total and pulled down ten rebounds to chalk up her tenth consecutive double-double. Thomas picked up her ninth rebound with about 11 minutes to play and remained in the game until she gathered in rebound number ten five minutes of playing time later. So the second thing we learned is that the coaching staff understands that when you have a national player of the year candidate, she needs the chance to get that tenth consecutive double-double.
The Terps continued to pound away at the Hornets using their size and depth to methodically wear them down. The lead reached thirty for the first time with just over thirteen minutes to play, crossed the forty point mark with 8:38 remaining and touched fifty with 1:42 to play. Sequoia Austin and Essence Townsend recorded eight and seven minutes of playing time respectively - season highs for both players. And they both scored. In fact, all twelve players who saw action scored at least two points and had at least one rebound. Of her different lineup combinations, Coach Frese said, "You know it's been an adjustment. Everybody has had to sacrifice. Obviously these guys are all competitors. You want to play as many minutes as you possibly can play, but because they are all being selfless and sacrificing, you know this team has a chance to do something pretty special. And I think they are finally starting to understand the depth that we have in terms of being able to send in waves if someone is unfortunately injured or in foul trouble, we don't have to miss a beat."
As she has been for most of the early season, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was the second leading scorer for Maryland with 13 while Lexie Brown with 11 and Malina Howard with 10 also reached double figures. Freshman Brionna Jones led the Terps with eleven rebounds and Maryland's final rebounding margin of 64-33 was as lopsided as the score. Frese said, "I really like to see where we're going with our rebounding. That's been an area that we've really stressed and to finally see our guard play really be aggressive and then obviously when you see Shatori flying in there and what we're able to get with our depth is key. It just gives you so many more opportunities at the basket."
The last lesson from Saturday's game was that, going into the break for final exams and the holidays, Maryland's freshmen are continuing to develop. Perhaps it's because the Terps have so much talent they feel less pressure to take charge of a game but all three seem perfectly willing to, as the commentators often say, ‘let the game come to them.' Yes, they make some mistakes but they play well within themselves for the most part and it's unusual to see them forcing things.
Maryland returns to the court for back to back games on December 28 and 29 when they host Wofford, and the College of Charleston in their annual holiday tournament before things get really serious as the Terps will open the ACC season on the road at North Carolina.