Maryland women's basketball reached 100 points for the second time in as many games and blew out an under-sized and out-matched High Point (1-2) squad on Wednesday night in College Park. There were some good moments but some troubling ones too.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 19 of her career-high 26 points in the first half as Maryland (2-0) raced out to a 48-20 lead at the break.
Maryland's defense in the second quarter was suffocating, holding High Point to just six points. Despite their great defense however, Maryland only outrebounded the Panthers by three in the first half. The game was effectively over by halftime.
The Terps played better in the second half but it was far from perfect. "We still look like we're playing the second game of the season," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said after the game.
Freshman forward Kiah Gillespie went 5-6 in the second half and knocked down a couple of threes early on. She had 12 points in the half. Brionna Jones chipped in with 14 points and nine boards in the second half as Walker-Kimbrough cooled off. After outrebounding the Panthers by just three in the first half, the Terps responded by winning the rebounding battle, 35-14, in the second half.
Maryland's best defensive stretch came in the final minutes of the game. After Kaylah Keys hit a jumper with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter, Maryland shut down the Panthers on offense, holding them to just one point over the rest of the game.
Through the exhibitions and first two games, it looks like this team has a lot of room for improvement. "I was really disappointed with our defense and our rebounding...Defensively, we've got a lot of improvements we've gotta be able to make on the defensive end," Frese said. When asked what the biggest improvements that the team needs to make on defense are, Frese responded, "A lot."
Seeing members of the 2006 national championship team that delivered Maryland's first national title nearly a decade ago made an impact on this current team. Gillespie said, "It's very eye opening...It's just really important for me to uphold that standard."
Making it to one Final Four is not easy. Maryland is now looking to make their third in a row. They will get everyone's best shot and they cannot afford to lose focus and play sloppy basketball for stretches of games like they did tonight. High Point got to the basket repeatedly and out-fought them for rebounds in the first half. The Terrapins can't allow that to happen when they have a big size (and talent) advantage.
Walker-Kimbrough said that she gained some valuable insight from seeing some of the members of the 2006 team. "Knowing that it's not going to be easy...I feel as if we have the blueprint to get to the Final Four and we just have to work that much harder to get past that step to get a national championship like the 2006 team did."
If Maryland wants to make their third straight Final Four, they will have to fix their rebounding problems. They will have to fix their transition defense. They will have to fix the way they defend dribble drive penetration. These are key issues that could prevent the Terps from reaching their goal.
Maryland will take the win tonight but they need to address their weaknesses before great teams expose and exploit them. Luckily for Maryland, they are rich in both depth and talent and have one of the greatest possible assets on their side...Time.