No. 2 seed Maryland women’s basketball had a dominant first performance in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will look to continue that run against No. 7 seed Alabama
The Terps defeated No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s, 98-45. The 53-point victory margin is the largest by any team in program history, men’s and women's, in an NCAA Tournament matchup.
Maryland finished the game with five Terps in double-digit scoring with sophomore guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller leading the way with 22 points and 19 points, respectively. Senior forward Chloe Bibby also had herself a day putting 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for a double-double.
Now, as they look to face Alabama, they are facing a roster filled with veteran players making their first tournament appearance.
“I don’t think it’s a challenge [that they are veteran-led] at all because I played against them my freshman year when I was at Tennessee, so I have some insight on that,” sophomore forward Mimi Collins said. “Of course, players always improve as they go on throughout the years, but I’m in a better place now and I’m on a team that plays collective team defense and we know what we’re up against.”
Maryland and Alabama have only met once and that was back on Dec. 22, 2001, before head coach Brenda Frese arrived at Maryland. Alabama won that matchup, 71-56.
Wednesday's game will start at 1 p.m. and air on ESPN2.
Alabama Crimson Tide (17-9, 8-8 SEC)
2019-20 record: 18-12 (8-8 SEC)
Head coach Kristy Curry is in her eighth year as the leader of the Tide after spending seven seasons with the Texas Lady Raiders. In her seven seasons at Alabama, Curry has amassed a 133-117 record.
Since joining the Tide, Curry has made a positive impact on the program. During the 2019-20 season, Alabama’s 8-8 conference record was the first time the team went .500 in the conference since the 2001-02 season. The eight SEC wins were the most by the Tide since the 1997-98 season.
This season, the Tide finished the season at .500 in conference play again and on Jan. 14, they took down SEC opponent then-No. 14 Mississippi State, 86-78. Most recently, the Tide defeated Missouri in the first round of the SEC Tournament but then dropped the game against then-No. 7 South Carolina. In its first game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Alabama defeated North Carolina, 80-71.
Players to know
Jasmine Walker, senior forward, 6-foot-3, No. 40 — Walker leads the team in scoring averaging 19 points per game. She shoots 40% from behind the arc and has hit 74 three-point shots this season. Attempting an average of 7.1 per game, she makes 2.8 which leads the Tide. Walker’s height also allows her to grab the most rebounds on the team as she pulls in an average of 7.1 boards per game.
The Alabama native holds the program single-game scoring record at 41 points and has had 21 career double-double performances. To defeat the Tide, the Terps are going to have to shut out Walker.
“We took pride in boxing out [against Mount St. Mary’s] because we know in the tournament with our size and everything we’re going to meet more athletic and more taller bigs so it’s just us having the mindset of just boxing out and playing Maryland D,” Collins said.
Ariyah Copeland, senior forward, 6-foot-3, No. 22 — Copeland is second on the team behind Walker in rebounding with an average of 5.7 boards per game and third on the team in scoring averaging 14.8 points per game. Like Walker, Copeland has had her fair share of career double-doubles at 16.
Coming into this matchup, Copeland led the SEC in field goal percentage (61.5%) and ranks fourth-best in the country in that category behind Iowa’s Monika Czinano, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon and Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee.
Jordan Lewis, redshirt senior guard, 5-foot-6, No. 3 — Lewis averages 17.4 points per game, second on the team behind Walker and hits an average of 1.9 shots from behind the arc per game.
Against North Carolina, Lewis had an explosive game. The redshirt senior had 32 points shooting 11-for-21 from the field including four threes. Lewis also grabbed 11 boards, had eight assists and a steal.
Shooting from deep. The Terps average 8.3 three-point field goals made per game, the exact same as the Tide. In its win against the Tar Heels, Alabama shot 50% from behind the arc with 11 made three-point shots. Lewis and junior guard Hannah Barber led the team with four each.
Turnovers. Alabama averages 13.3 turnovers per game and in their first-round matchup against North Carolina, despite pulling out the win, they gave the ball up 14 times. Even though the Tar Heels only scored nine points off those takeaways, Maryland will not give up those chances. The Terps average 20.5 points per game off takeaways and will be sure to capitalize on those opportunities if they present themselves.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps come out as strong defensively? In the first tournament game the Terps played, Mount St. Mary’s kept the score close but the second quarter showcased Maryland’s defensive talent. They held the Mount to just four points as they shot 2-for-16 (12.5%) from the field and 0-for-7 from behind the arc. However, it took the Terps a few minutes to kick it into full gear against the Mount, something they cannot afford to do against this veteran-led Alabama team.
“We can’t come out with the five minutes like [against Mount St. Mary’s] against really good Alabama team,” Frese said. “We have to be ready to go from the tip but I think having our legs under us after not playing and being down here for over a week, I think we’ll be excited and ready to go.”
2. What impact will the bench have this time? Despite having just 10 active players on the roster, all 10 of them can score and make an impact from anywhere on the court. The theme of this season has been offensive weapons for the Terps and they will continue to play a large role the farther along this Maryland team advances in the tournament.
“[We’re] just doing the little things and staying true to our defense and just doing what we got to do or doing what I have to do to make our team either go up or go on a run or do the little things,” sophomore forward Faith Masonoius said.
Against Mount St. Mary’s, the Terps’ bench accounted for 29 points and all active players saw at least ten minutes of playing time. In that time they contributed in different ways to the team’s success whether that be in the points, boards, assists or steal categories on the stat sheet.
3. Will the Terps advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2017? Last year the coronavirus pandemic cut last season short so the tournament did not happen. During the 2017-18 season, the Terps lost to North Carolina State in the Round of 32. This team has had championship aspirations since before the season started and Frese has often compared them to the 2006 National Championship team she coached.
“The thing standing between the [2006 team and this team] is that the ’06 team has a national title. This one is yet to be determined, but I love the way this team plays…,” Frese said. “This team actually has a better assist to turnover ratio than that ‘06 team but the only thing is the ’06 still has the trophy and we’re excited for this team to see what lies ahead.”
Frese has led the Terps to eight Sweet Sixteen appearances as she searches to lead this team to their ninth.