No. 4 Maryland women's basketball will set up shop in Xfinity Center for its regular-season opener on Tuesday morning. Following two exhibition wins against Fairmont State and Georgian Court, the Terps start their 2021-22 season with a home match against Longwood, an opponent from the Big South.
Combining for 255 points through two exhibition games showcased everything the Terps have to offer on the offensive end. The team shot 63% from the field and a whopping 64% from behind the arc through 80 total minutes.
“Obviously, we can still score the basketball,” associate head coach Karen Blair said after the Georgian Court matchup. Blair served as the head coach for the night while head coach Brenda Frese was with the team on the bench.
“It’s what Maryland basketball is about, putting the basketball in the hoop,” Blair said. “I thought we did a lot of good things as a team. I thought we shared the basketball extremely well. I thought we improved from our first exhibition game on the defensive end.”
Junior guard Diamond Miller is still questionable with a knee issue that kept her out of the exhibition matches, but the Terps otherwise should be healthy to begin the season.
Tuesday’s game is set for an 11 a.m. tipoff and will air on BTN Plus.
Now, let’s take a look at Maryland’s first opponent of the regular season.
Longwood University Lancers
2020-21 record: 14-11 (12-6 Big South Conference)
Head coach Rebecca Tillett is in her fourth season in charge of the Lancers. Since taking over in March 2018, Tillett has helped Longwood to the most Big South wins and highest finish in program history. She also led the team to its first postseason berth in 2021, receiving an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
Last season, Tillett and the Lancers were 12-6 in conference play, which set a program record for wins. She helped the team finish third in the conference, also a first. In the conference tournament, the team played to the semifinals before finally bowing out. Tillett has years of experience, including a three-year stint as a scout with the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA.
The two sides have met once before, playing in January of 2011. In their only meeting, Maryland traveled to Farmville, Virginia and routed Longwood, 84–38.
Players to know
Akila Smith, junior forward, 5-foot-11, No. 13 — Smith was last year’s Big South Defensive Player of the Year. The Orlando, Florida native also was an All-Big South first-team selection. Last season, Smith averaged 15.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks on top of almost 58% shooting from the field, though she attempted only five threes. She’s the main focal point for success on this Longwood team.
Kyla McMakin, junior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 1 — McMakin was a Big South first-team guard last season. She led the conference in scoring for the second straight year, averaging 17.9 points per game. She also was the fastest player in school history to hit 1,000 points. McMakin is the team's most lethal scorer and she projects to be just that again coming into this season.
Tra’Dayja Smith, senior point guard, 5-foot-5, No. 14 — A pass-first point guard, Smith was an All-Big South honorable mention last year and averaged 9.8 points and 5.4 assists. Smith is one of the best distributors on the Longwood roster, and it will take a lot of ball movement to beat Maryland’s very active decent. Look for Smith to move the ball around with purpose come Tuesday.
Offense. Longwood was the second-highest scoring group in the Big South, averaging 71.1 points per game, which was just 1.1 points behind Highpoint in first. With three players averaging double-digit scoring last season, the Lancers have little trouble putting the ball in the basket.
Defense. Interestingly enough, Longwood struggles on the defensive side of the ball. Despite having the Big South DPOY in Akila Smith, the Lancers gave up the most points per game last season in the conference — 68.8. Maryland’s top scoring offense will look to take it to a team that couldn't find its defensive footing a season ago.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland break the century mark yet again? In its first two exhibition games, last season’s top offense looked just as potent as the side that averaged 90.8 points per game in 2020-21. Even though they were facing Division II opponents, that doesn’t make cracking the century mark any less impressive. Maryland should get close, especially with Longwood’s suspect defense.
2. Will the young players continue to show out? Freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, ESPN's No. 22 recruit in the class of 2021, had two impressive games to start her Maryland career. The guard put up 15 against Fairmont State and followed that up with 20 versus Georgian Court. Sellers and freshman Emma Chardon round out a stout freshman class to go with sophomore standout Angel Reese and Taisiya Kozlova.
3. How will the Terps share the ball? One of Maryland’s strengths is their ability to share the ball; any player can go off for 20-plus any night, one of the reasons why this team had the highest point total last season. In the two exhibition games, the team logged 21 and 24 assists, respectively. With an elite playmaker in guard Ashley Owusu leading the charge, Maryland can efficiently score from all three levels.