Maryland women’s basketball opened its NCAA Tournament run Friday with a 103-61 win over Bucknell in College Park.
In the first game of the tournament and the team’s first contest since March 5, the No. 3-seed Terps looked every bit like the team that cruised to 30 wins during the season, and the Patriot League champions had no answer for them. Maryland pulled away in the first quarter and never let the Bison back in it.
Seniors Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough owned the postseason stage. Jones posted 19 points and nine rebounds in the first half and finished with 25 and 10, her 23rd double-double in 33 games this season. Walker-Kimbrough scored 28 points, including 16 in the first two quarters.
Those two didn’t need much help. Ieshia Small was the Terps’ third-leading scorer with 10 points, most of which came in the fourth quarter. Destiny Slocum only scored five on 2-of-8 shooting, but contributed seven assists and seven rebounds. Kaila Charles chipped in five points and six boards.
Maryland didn’t rely much on the three-pointer, going just 4-of-11 from beyond the arc (Walker-Kimbrough went 3-of-4). Instead, the Terps made their killing in the paint, both with Jones on post-ups and with guards on drives and fast breaks. Sixty of the team’s 103 points came down low.
On the other end, Bucknell didn’t get anything easily. The Bison only scored 20 points in the paint and shot 37 percent from the field overall. They turned the ball over 20 times and only forced five by Maryland.
The two seniors combined for Maryland’s first 20 points, a streak broken by Stephanie Jones over eight minutes into the game. The teams were knotted at 7-7 through four minutes, but Maryland took control with a 10-0 run and led 22-10 after the first quarter.
Neither squad started the second period on fire, and it was still a 12-point game with 3:34 remaining in the half. But the Terps closed on a 15-4 run, including an 11-0 burst in a 77-second stretch, to take a 45-22 advantage into the locker room.
Things didn’t get much more interesting in the second half, when Maryland shot over 70 percent as a team. The lead stretched to 66-33 by the third-quarter media timeout, and Brenda Frese emptied the bench halfway through the frame. The Terps mixed and matched starters and reserves for a while before turning it completely over to the backups down the stretch.
Stephanie Jones’ layup with a minute remaining put the Terps in triple digits, the first time they’ve ever eclipsed 100 points in the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland will play again Sunday, and the Terps await the winner of No. 6-seed West Virginia and No. 11-seed Elon, who tip off at Xfinity Center shortly after this game.
Three things to know
1. The seniors wasted no time taking over. Jones and Walker-Kimbrough combined to score 53 of their team’s 103 points, and even that ratio sells them short. Both will play at Xfinity Center for the final time Sunday, and there’s no reason to expect a much different story.
2. Maryland forced turnovers and capitalized on them. Bucknell’s 20 giveaways led to 23 Maryland points. The Terps, meanwhile, only turned it over twice in the first half and five times in the game, a number they’d do well to replicate Sunday.
3. Brenda Frese was able to stretch out the rotation. Ieshia Small, Stephanie Jones and Brianna Fraser saw first-half minutes, while the rest of the bench—Blair Watson, Kiah Gillespie, Sarah Myers and Jenna Staiti—entered early in the second half. Frese still clearly trusts her starting five more than anyone, and Bucknell didn’t present too much of a challenge for the reserves, but the Terps’ depth looks like it could be a strength in this tournament.