After winning its pool and falling in the quarterfinals of the World University Games, Maryland women’s basketball had a strong finish to the tournament, defeating Canada and Sweden this weekend. The Terps finished 5-1 in the tournament, and they’ll head back to College Park with a fifth-place finish.
Saturday: USA 80, Canada 75
Maryland prevailed in the battle between the two border nations. Ieshia Small led all scorers with 25 points on a blazing 11-12 from the field, and Kaila Charles added 20 points. Stephanie Jones quietly had another solid game, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Terps used hot starts from Charles and Small to jump out to a 26-16 lead after one period. Both Charles and Small got good looks, whether it was attacking the basket or knocking down pull-up jumpers.
Maryland also established the tempo early on, looking to run as much as possible. Channise Lewis had a nice stretch in transition, finding Charles and Jones for fast-break layups during the quarter. The Terps outrebounded Canada 16-6 during the first quarter, which helped offset Maryland’s 43 percent shooting.
During the next two quarters, Canada was able to contain Small’s and Charles’ impacts on the floor and began to chip away at the lead. Alex Kiss-Rusk hit a jumper to tie it at 54 with under four minutes to go in the third quarter, and following a turnover she found Mael Gilles on a backdoor cut to give Canada its first lead of the game.
The Terps particularly struggled in the third quarter, when they shot 31 percent and turned the ball over six times. Maryland rebounded to shoot 60 percent in the fourth, and Tori Jankoska darted through traffic for a layup to give the Terps a 63-62 lead early in the quarter that they would never relinquish.
Monday: USA 86, Sweden 65
Maryland had little trouble with Sweden in its final game in Taiwan. Brianna Fraser led the Terps with 18 points in just 17 minutes, while Blair Watson scored 15 and Sarah Myers had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Maryland shot an efficient 54 percent, and held Sweden to just 27 percent shooting. If it wasn’t for the Terps’ 18 turnovers or 44 percent free throw shooting, this would have been a complete blowout.
Once again, the Terps jumped out to an early lead by using good shot selection and transition opportunities. The Terps shot 69 percent in the first quarter, compared to just 27 percent for Sweden. Unlike against Canada, there was only a slight dip when the reserves entered.
Maryland cooled off in the second quarter, shooting just 35 percent, but continued to play lock-down defense and held Sweden to 24 percent shooting. Whether it was because of the tempo of the game or fatigue after six games in eight days, Sweden never got going offensively.
This meant that Sweden could never claw their way back into the game, and the Terps cruised to an 86-65 win.
The tournament showed Maryland’s expected starting lineup for November.
Although this isn’t the team Maryland will have for the 2017-18 season, the tournament did give some hints on playing time. Brenda Frese always started the game with current Maryland players, and it looked like the group that will probably start in non-conference play when the Terps will be without Florida transfer Eleanna Christinaki.
Lewis, Charles, Kristen Confroy, Jones and Fraser started the first four games, and Blair Watson started the last two after Confroy suffered a foot injury. The starting five isn’t surprising, but it’s one less question the team will have to answer after a difficult off-season.
Not everyone will be leaving Taiwan healthy.
Confroy injured her foot during the week, but the team hasn’t yet released anything about the severity of the injury. She had a boot on her left foot in a photo on the team’s Twitter account the day before Maryland was set to take on Australia in the quarterfinals, and she played the first quarter of that game before sitting out the rest of the tournament.
If Confroy has to miss significant time, Maryland will definitely miss her presence. She will be the only returning upperclassmen starter this fall, and is always steady on the court. She may have a limited skill set, but it is one that the Terps may not immediately be able to replace. Confroy rebounds well for a guard and is the team’s only proven three-point threat after Shatori Walker-Kimbrough graduated and Destiny Slocum transferred.
A trio of sophomores looks ready to take the next step.
One of the hallmarks of Brenda Frese’s 15 year tenure at Maryland has been player development. The Terps don’t always have the top recruits, but many players seem to make great strides throughout their time in College Park.
It looks like this year won’t be any different. Charles showed she can be a more complete scorer and possibly the main option for the Terps in the fall. Jones continued to show she had a nice touch around the basket and a knack for getting rebounds, similar to her older sister Brionna.
Finally, Watson provided a lot of energy throughout the week on both ends of the floor. She should be a boost off the bench or in the starting lineup, depending on how she progresses during the season. If she finds a consistent three-point shot, she could be a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches.
After taking a few weeks off, Maryland will get back in the gym and start preparing for the 2017-18 season, which begins on Nov. 10 when the Terps host Albany.