While talking to the media Thursday, Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese compared the night before the season opener to a night before Christmas or any other big holiday.
If the Terps’ 91-58 season opening win over Albany was Christmas Day, then taking on South Carolina in the second game is like the hard reality of going back to work after a long weekend off. The Gamecocks are the defending national champions and are ranked No. 4 in the country, while the Great Danes weren’t predicted to win the America East conference.
“We’ve never quite had it scheduled like this so quickly,” Frese said Thursday. “To be able to have two teams that we’re in the Final Four and are used to winning a lot of games.”
After playing South Carolina, Maryland has an easy game against Niagara before traveling to Hartford to take on top-ranked Connecticut on Sunday. It may not be an ideal early schedule for such a young team, but Frese said it will help the Terps get experience against the top teams in the country.
With the games taking place so early in the season, senior guard Kristen Confroy said they will use them as a measuring stick for where they are so early in the season.
“Early on in the season, yes you want to win games, but at the same time you’re just trying to see what we need to be in March,” Confroy said Thursday. “Getting to play that great competition has really lit a fire under all of us knowing that right off the bat we all have to perform and be ready to go.”
Maryland didn’t quite have that “fire” to start the season. It looked sloppy on offense, and struggled to create good shots. The result was just 14 first-quarter points on 31 percent shooting, as well as 10 turnovers. Frese attributed that to nerves, saying that the team that started the game played a lot differently than the one in practices or exhibitions.
Even though the Terps picked up the slack in the second quarter and cruised to an easy win, it’s still November. That means there’s plenty to improve on, and there were two things that stuck out to Frese Friday night.
“You can’t have 21 turnovers in a competitive contest that comes down to possessions,” Frese said after the game. “That’s an area I thought we got better as the game went on.”
Frese also said Maryland needs to step up on the defensive end, as she thought the team had some breakdowns tonight that they won’t be able to afford against better competition. Despite the slow start, the 16th-year Maryland coach doesn’t anticipate her team having any trouble getting amped up for the game on Monday.
“The name on our schedule is South Carolina and that’ll be easy for our players to get up to,” Frese said. “I know they’re looking forward to it.”
Besides being a tough early matchup, Monday’s game will give the Terps a much better gauge of where they stand in the national picture than beating up against mid-major opponents. As Confroy referenced earlier, it doesn’t matter how good you are now, but how good you are in March and April. The last two seasons, Maryland has certainly learned that the hard way.