Maryland's 92-66 win in their final road game as a member of the ACC turned out to be a good one in many ways. First, it assured the Terps of no worse than a fourth place finish in ACC play. Second, it allowed Coach Frese to play all thirteen players and twelve of them scored. Third, the Terps appeared to regain their stroke from the free throw line making 14 of 16.
Another positive came from the play of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. The freshman, whose production had fallen off in recent games, came off the bench to score 11 points, pull down 6 rebounds and hand out 3 assists in 21 productive minutes. The Terps also got key contributions from Katie Rutan whose early three pointers offset a sluggish Maryland start and from Lexie Brown as well. Brown finished as Maryland's second leading scorer with twelve points and handed out six assists with only one turnover. But in the end, the night would belong to Alyssa Thomas.
Following the ceremonies to honor BC's seniors and prior to the opening tip of Thursday's game Eagles head coach Erik Johnson walked to the Maryland bench and congratulated each of Maryland's five seniors. It was a classy gesture, something we haven't been accustomed to in this final ACC season. Frese responded with a classy gesture of her own. Injured Boston College senior Katie Zenevitch got the start. When Maryland won the opening tip, Frese called an immediate timeout so Zenevitch could safely leave the court.
Once play resumed, one of Maryland's five seniors, Katie Rutan, got the Terps rolling by knocking down three point jumpers on the Terps' first two possessions. In the beginning, Alyssa Thomas was kinder. After pulling down a rebound and picking up two assists, she picked up her second foul with 17:29 to play in the half and went immediately to the bench.
Though the Terps led 8-7 at the first media timeout, Boston College scored coming out of the break to take their first lead of the game. Kristen Doherty was soaring early for the Eagles as the teams traded baskets and leads in this second segment. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, gaining some extra early minutes with Thomas on the bench in foul trouble, gave the Terps a lift of the bench scoring four point early as the Terps led by three 20-17 going into the next break in play.
Both teams were shooting lights out early with Maryland making 8 of their first 13 and Boston College shooting 7 for 14. The Terps seemed intent on keeping the Eagles in the game, however, with five early turnovers and launching some shots early in the shot clock. Lexie Brown hit the Terps third three pointer and Maryland only led 26-24 when a BC foul stopped the clock with 7:33 to play in first half.
The teams swapped buckets out of the timeout but BC's Nicole Boudreau hit the Eagles' fifth three pointer of the half to put the home team up by one. By this time, Coach Frese had seen enough and she reinserted Thomas with 6:53 to play. The move paid immediate dividends as Maryland went on a 7-0 run all fueled by the Terrapins' star senior. Thomas gave the Terps two free throws, a layup, and a steal that led to a Lexie Brown three and prompted a Boston College timeout.
The move didn't help. Though the Terps didn't cool the Eagles' hot shooting, Maryland began to ratchet up the defensive pressure forcing a pair of BC turnovers. They hit the boards and continued their own hot shooting. By the time Thomas finished her 9 minutes on the court and returned to the bench with 1:26 to play in the half, she had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. And by the way, the Terps led 44-33. The stretch with Thomas in the game seemed to settle the Terps as Brown hit her fourth three pointer and Laurin Mincy scored three the old fashioned way as Maryland took a 50-38 halftime lead.
The Eagles had the first possession of the second half and Doherty continued to fly scoring the half's first basket. Thomas had an immediate response and then Brionna Jones, who had scored six in the first half, dropped in two free throws to give Maryland a 14 point, 54-40 (or fight) lead. Thomas scored the next five for Maryland making a steal for a layup and hitting a jumper that sandwiched another Eagles three pointer and when she fed Alicia DeVaughn for a layup, the Terrapins' led 62-46 and Johnson needed another timeout.
The pace of the game and Maryland's depth appeared to be wearing down the Eagles. After shooting 15 for 27 in the first half, they opened the second making only three of their first ten. Though I couldn't see the game and the radio feed never materialized, when the under twelve minute timeout came with the Terps up 68-49, I imagined the Eagles dragging themselves to their bench desperate for a place to perch.
Anyone want to guess who scored Maryland's first five points coming out of the break? If you didn't immediately shout Alyssa Thomas, you're benched for the season. The senior bumped her point total to 22 and the Terps just continued to pour it on, stretching the lead to 77-51 and I'll let you guess how that prompted Coach Johnson to respond. No, it wasn't to beg. He called a timeout.
This time it worked a bit. In the minute and forty-five seconds of game time between his timeout and the (there's no broadcast of this game but there's still a) media timeout, the Eagles actually cut a point off the Terrapins' lead and trailed 84-59. At this point, Coach Frese had a lineup on the floor reminiscent of last season: DeVaughn, Mincy, Moseley, Pavlech, and Thomas. And when she subbed Pfirman for DeVaughn, it felt even more like last year. Continuing the 2012-13 substitution pattern, when Thomas went to the bench with 4:23 to play, she was replaced by Malina Howard. At this point, AT was one rebound shy of her sixty-first career double-double. She'd finish the night with 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Not a bad 25 minutes of work.
With 1:26 to play, Coach Frese also got everyone on the roster some minutes as Sequoia Austin and Essence Townsend entered the game. Austin would make a three pointer off an assist from Townsend as the Terps wrapped up their 26 point win. This win, combined with North Carolina's loss at Notre Dame, assures that Maryland can finish no worse than fourth in the ACC thus securing the coveted double bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
The regular season comes to an end beginning at 2 pm Sunday as Maryland hosts Virginia Tech on the Terrapins' own senior day.