After a couple drubbings in its preseason exhibitions, the Maryland women’s basketball team opened the regular season on Friday night against Coppin State. Despite a jump in competition, Friday’s game played out just like an exhibition. The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead and were able to cruise to a 93-36 victory, obliterating the Eagles with ease.
The Terps were led by a pair of freshmen, who had remarkable outings in their collegiate debuts. Taylor Mikesell led all scorers, going for 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-10 from long range. But nobody garnered more attention than Shakira Austin, who put together a ridiculous stat line of 12 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks. Thanks to her 6’5 frame, nobody could stop her inside.
So the season could not start any better for Maryland, but now it’ll face a more challenging opponent. On Sunday, the Terps will welcome the Dayton Flyers, who made the NCAA Tournament last season. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET and can be seen on BTN Plus.
Dayton Flyers (1-0)
2017 record: 23-7 (15-1 Atlantic 10)
Head coach Shauna Green is in her third season with the Flyers, and it’s been an incredible run thus far in Dayton. Since taking over, the team is 46-17 and has made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Last season, the Flyers were Atlantic 10 regular season champions, losing in the first round in the NCAA Tournament to No. 8-seed Marquette.
Players to know
Julia Chandler, redshirt junior, forward, 6’2, No. 13. Chandler started her career at Syracuse, playing there for two seasons before deciding to leave. Due to the NCAA’s strict transfer rules, she was forced to sit out the 2017-18 season before becoming eligible to play. In her first game with the Flyers, she scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting in 24 minutes of action.
Jayla Scaife, junior, guard, 5’10, No. 42. Scaife is the leading scorer among returning players, as her 14.5 points per game average in the 2017-18 season finished second on the team behind senior Jenna Burdette. Now a leader in the backcourt, Scaife began her junior campaign by scoring 12 points in the season opener against Colgate on Friday.
Defense. Last year’s Dayton team was stout defensively, ranking fourth in the conference by giving up just 62.1 points per game to its opponents. As a unit, the Flyers allowed the opposition to shoot 35.6 percent from the field, which was the best mark in the Atlantic 10. Against Colgate in the season opener, Dayton held the Raiders to a .328 field goal percentage.
Turnover margin. As good as the Flyers are at stifling opponents’ shooting, they have had great difficulties at forcing turnovers. Last year, Dayton averaged 12.77 turnovers forced per game, which ranked 318th out of 349 qualified teams. And in turning the ball over 13.5 times per game, the Flyers finished with a negative turnover margin.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland’s offense get back on track? Friday night was an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance for Maryland, whose scoring output of 93 points was rather misleading. The Terrapins shot from the floor at a .386 clip, including a lowly .286 from long range on 28 attempts. Thanks to their defense, it didn’t matter against Coppin State, but failing to score at an efficient rate could come back to hurt them against Dayton.
2. Can anyone stop Shakira Austin? The freshman’s debut wasn’t perfect by any means, as a 3-of-11 shooting performance left a lot to be desired. Most of those misses were at point-blank range, a somewhat worrisome sign. But thanks to her height and presence in the post, Austin was able to clean up after her misses. She grabbed eight offensive rebounds to contribute to her total of 21 boards. Dayton’s tallest player in the regular rotation is just 6’3, a full two inches shorter than Austin. If the Flyers want any chance of winning, they’ll need to neutralize her inside.
3. Does Dayton stay in it? Thanks to a great defense, Dayton doesn’t get blown out very often. In 30 games last season, the Flyers lost by 15 points or more just twice. The Terrapins have a tendency to get out to an early lead and roll to victories of wide margins, but that won’t come easy on Sunday. If Dayton wants to keep things close, it’ll have to match Maryland offensively.