After two closer-than-expected games against Georgia and Georgia Tech, No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball routed UMBC on Sunday, 92-61. The undefeated Terps controlled both sides of the court and never let the Retrievers get close, after previously letting big leads slip away against the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets.
The Terps’ performance had an overwhelming number of positives. Maryland shot 54.8 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three, won the rebounding battle 44-28 and scored 24 points off turnovers while allowing two. The one negative was that the Terps only shot 55 percent from the free throw line, which they’ll need to increase if they want to completely round out their game and take down tougher competition.
Maryland will get a stiffer test on Saturday when James Madison comes to town. Tipoff is scheduled for noon ET and can be streamed on BTN Plus.
James Madison Dukes (6-1)
2017-18 record: 23-10, 16-2 Colonial Athletic Association
Head coach Sean O’Regan is in his third season in charge of the Dukes. James Madison won the CAA regular-season championship last year before falling in the conference tournament and grabbing a top seed in the WNIT. The Dukes previously made that tournament in 2017, and last made the NCAA Tournament in 2016. O’Regan, a former student manager for the Dukes men’s basketball team in the early 2000s, previously served an assistant at Evansville and JMU.
Players to know
Kamiah Smalls, junior, guard, 5’10, No. 3. Smalls, a 2017-18 All-CAA first-teamer, is having her best season yet leading the Dukes. The junior is averaging 19.6 points per game over 30.3 minutes, an increase of nearly five points per game from last season. Additionally, Smalls averages 6.3 rebounds per game and leads her team at the line, making 84.6 percent of her free throws.
Kayla Cooper-Williams, junior, center, 6’2, No. 31. Cooper-Williams is a defensive force for the Dukes. The redshirt junior leads the team with 9.6 rebounds per game and has 16 total blocks on the season. Both numbers put her in the top 60 nationally. She also provides solid secondary scoring, averaging 4.3 points per game.
Defense and rebounding. Similar to Maryland, James Madison’s success has been due to a stingy defensive and rebounding effort that keeps opponents off the scoreboard and limits second-chance opportunities. The Dukes have allowed 52.9 points per game, the 17th-fewest in the country. Meanwhile, they collect 43.7 rebounds per game and out-rebound their opponents by 10.1 rebounds per game, good for 40th in the country. They also lead their conference in both statistical categories.
Offense and turnovers. The Dukes don’t have a glaring weakness on their team, but their offense is rather middle-of-the-road, averaging 69.3 points per game. A slightly bigger problem for the Dukes is their 15.1 turnovers per game and -1.0 turnover margin. Against Maryland’s stout defense, James Madison must take care of the ball if they want to keep the game close.
Three things to watch
1. Who wins the rebounding battle? The Terps and Dukes are two of the best rebounding teams in the country. While Maryland is better overall (50.1 vs. 43.7 rebounds per game), James Madison has three players averaging over six boards per game (Cooper-Williams, Smalls and Devon Merritt). If the Dukes keep the rebounding margin respectable, then the Terps could find themselves in a dogfight toward the end.
2. Can the Terps play a complete 40 minutes? After up-and-down performances against South Carolina, Morgan State, Georgia and Georgia Tech, Maryland demolished UMBC on Sunday. Against a much better James Madison team, the Terps must keep their foot on the pedal like they did against the Retrievers, or Maryland might be sweating out another close game late.
3. How well does Kayla Cooper-Williams defend Shakira Austin? Cooper-Williams is the Dukes’ biggest (6’2) and unquestionably best defensive player. Austin, meanwhile, has been even better for the Terps, showcasing her talent on both ends of the court—she scored a he scored a career-high 15 points against UMBC and is averaging 12.5 rebounds per game. If Cooper-Williams is able to frustrate Austin down low, then the Dukes could force Maryland to play more of a perimeter game.