Maryland Women win First Big Ten Game

A new era of basketball is underway in College Park, and one of Maryland’s bigs appeared to take right to the style of play in the new conference.

Senior Guard Laurin Mincy goes up for a layup attempt between two defenders during Maryland's Big Ten opener against Ohio State.  Photo Credit: Maryland Athletics Department.
Senior Guard Laurin Mincy goes up for a layup attempt between two defenders during Maryland’s Big Ten opener against Ohio State.
Photo Credit: Maryland Athletics Department.

The Maryland Lady Terrapins (number 14 AP, number 9 USA Today Coaches’ Poll) tipped off their first Big Ten season against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Dec. 29 before a crowd of 5,671 at the XFINITY Center. Sophomore center Brionna Jones (Havre de Grace/Aberdeen High School) scored Maryland’s first five points and racked up four offensive rebounds in the first 3:06 of the game. Jones, who finished with seven offensive rebounds, felt that being more physical would help her team control the tempo of the game.

“I was just trying to out-physical them, just be more physical than them, and out-rebound them, and just try and work as hard as I could to keep the ball in our hands,” Jones said. She finished with a game-high 23 points, 14 total rebounds and four blocks.
However, the rest of the first half was fairly evenly played. The key factor was Maryland’s attack on the boards. The Lady Terps held a 33-17 edge in total rebounds, including 15-6 on the offensive glass and 15-3 in second-chance points. Ohio State got untracked by three-point range enough to keep Maryland from pulling away, as the Terps only held a 43-40 lead at halftime.

The Terps started to impose their will early in the second half. Jones scored on a layup off another offensive rebound with 17:46 left to give herself a double-double and Maryland a 49-44 lead. Just over a minute and a half later, junior forward Tierney Pfiernan set up sophomore guard Lexie Brown for a layup that gave Maryland a 55-49 lead that led Ohio State to call a timeout as the crowd roared its approval. The Terps then started pulling away, holding the Buckeyes scoreless for four and a half minutes while missing eight straight shots. That allowed Maryland to go on an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 68-55 with 10:20 left in the game. The Terps maintained control for the rest of the game on the way to an 87-78 win, their first-ever Big 10 win. Maryland (10-2) shot 51.5 percent in the second half, while holding Ohio State (8-5) to just 35.7 percent. Five players, including four of the starters, scored in double figures, and Head Coach Brenda Frese was happy with how her players handled the shifts in momentum during the game.

“(I’m) really proud of how we handled the game, a game of runs; really a lot of fun to watch. I mean, it was like a track meet when you talk about both teams really being up-tempo and being aggressive,” Frese said. She gave credit to the Lady Buckeyes for how strong a team they are, and said the game was an indicator of the “battles” to come during the rest of the Big Ten season.

“More than anything, when you get to conference play, it’s just you’re excited about the level of competition and the fact that you’re going to have to play a complete game in order to get the win,” Frese said. With the amount of depth her team has, she says she’s open to adjusting how she rotates her players in and out of games.
“I feel like with our depth this season, it’s really a matter of who’s practicing well, who’s playing well; there’s different games in terms of matchups,” Frese said, adding that she feels Maryland’s depth is an advantage.

After Cait Craft hit a three to pull the Buckeyes to within four with 2:43 left, Ohio State tried trapping Maryland. Sophomore guard Lexie Brown explained how Maryland was able to handle that pressure.

“At that point in the game, I think they were just trying to get us to turn the ball over, so they were kind of just chasing the ball. After you beat the trap, the middle was wide open, and they were just leaving Bri wide open in the bottom, so it was our job just to find her,” Brown said. Brown finished with 12 points and seven assists.
Jones wasn’t the only starter with a double-double. Redshirt senior guard Laurin Mincy had 14 points and 11 rebounds, along with six assists. Joining Jones, Mincy and Brown in double-figure scoring was Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who barely missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, and junior forward Tierney Pfirnan, who had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Pfirnan drew some cheers from the fans with her hustle.

The Terrapins will play their first Big Ten road game on New Year’s weekend when they go to Nebraska (number 12 AP, number 14 USA Today) on Jan. 3.

Maryland women’s basketball win at Coppin State, 110-51

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 17 points in Maryland's final non-conference game at Coppin State.  Photo Credit: University of Maryland Department of Athletics.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 17 points in Maryland’s final non-conference game at Coppin State.
Photo Credit: University of Maryland Department of Athletics.

The Maryland Lady Terrapins (number 14 in AP poll, number 11 in coaches’ poll) made a trip up to Baltimore to play the Coppin State Lady Eagles for their final nonconference game before kicking off their first Big Ten regular season against Ohio State. The Terps got off to a fast start and made it stand up all the way to the end.

Head Coach Brenda Frese’s squad jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the game, and kept pulling away from there on the way to a 110-51 win at the Coppin State University Physical Education Complex on Dec. 21. Maryland (9-2) led 59-25 at halftime, thanks to 61.1 percent shooting from the floor in the first half, and 22 points off 17 Coppin State turnovers. Maryland went on a 15-4 run in the first 4:46 of the second half to extend their lead to 74-29. Maryland shot 58.1 percent for the game, while holding the Eagles (1-9) to 39.2 percent. Frese said it was defense that was the theme of the day for Maryland.

“From the tip, we set the tone I thought with our defense and our transition…I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now,” said Frese. She added that the game was a good final tune-up before heading into conference play.

“This is where you want to kind of be climbing to. We just came off of finals, and to be able to see that we didn’t have a lot of rust, given the break of a long stretch, gives us a lot of confidence heading into conference play,” Frese said. The Terps were able to crisply move the ball down the court when they got the ball, using crisp passing and effective cuts to the basket for layups. The Terps also used drives to set up wide open looks for Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy on three-pointers. One thing Frese said the team worked on in practice during the break for finals was sharing the ball.

“It was something we’ve really been working on, in terms of making that extra pass and being unselfish, and I thought we executed really well,” said Frese.

While the Terrapins jumped out to a big lead early, sophomore guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough says the team tries to continue executing and playing its game.

“We always say, ‘Just play Maryland basketball,’ and that’s defend, rebound and run,” said Walker-Kimbrough, who had 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. “We don’t want to play the score. We just want to continue to play within ourselves, and play Maryland basketball.” Coppin State made two out of just three three-point attempts, and didn’t even shoot a three in the second half.

“I think we locked down the three pretty well tonight,” said Moseley, who finished with 18 points and eight assists. “And I think that opened up a lot, so as that opened up a lot, that kept the post players wide open, and we got a lot of dish-downs.” Moseley said that being able to drive to the basket and kick the ball out to shooters led to Maryland’s 23-13 assist-to-turnover ratio in the game. She also said Maryland’s transition game opened things up for the rest of the offense.

“I think we just ran hard. I think our transition got us a lot of things that were open, so our guards running hard and our posts screening down got a lot of stuff going that we got a lot of easy shots early,” Moseley said.

Coppin State committed 29 turnovers, and Maryland scored 39 points off turnovers. The Terps outscored the Eagles 54-16 in the paint, and had 25 second-chance points. Maryland finished with a 44-28 rebounding advantage.

The game marked a homecoming for redshirt freshman forward A’Lexus Harrison, who attended Digital Harbor High School in Federal Hill. She says it was “a big step” for her to be able to play against a school in her hometown.

“I think to come back and play was just really fun. I have a lot of friends on the (Coppin) team, and it was really just a lot of fun, honestly, just to play against a lot of my friends and actually be back home,” said Harrison, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. She said while it’s important to play every game with the same mindset and put the same amount of effort in, it was still fun to be able to play in front of a home crowd.

Frese said her players dedicated the game to Theo Stipich, a longtime Lady Terps supporter and season ticketholder who’s been battling lung and brain cancer. Frese said the players sent him a letter saying that they’d come out ready to play and keep him in their minds.

Maryland Terps Shooting Heats Up in Second Half to Hold Off Spartans

Maryland’s defense got off to a strong start in one of its final nonconference games of the season, but the offense took a little longer to get going.

Jake Layman scored 17 points and went six of 15 from the floor to lead the 19th-ranked Maryland Terrapins to a 67-57 win over the South Carolina-Upstate Spartans on Dec. 13 before an announced crowd of 9,093 at the Xfinity Center in College Park. Freshman guard Melo Trimble added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Evan Smotrycz added 10 off the bench. The Terrapins held USC-Upstate scoreless for the first 3:13 of the game. The Spartans eventually got their legs under them following the early tipoff, and found success by driving inside, and then kicking the ball out for jump shots. That opened up the inside for the Spartans.

Freshman guard Melo Trimble shooting a three-pointer over Ty Greene of USC-Upstate. Trimble recorded his first career double-double in the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Maryland Terps Vs. USC-Upstate on Dec. 13.  Photo Credit: Zack Bolno
Freshman guard Melo Trimble shooting a three-pointer over Ty Greene of USC-Upstate. Trimble recorded his first career double-double in the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Maryland Terps Vs. USC-Upstate on Dec. 13.
Photo Credit: Zack Bolno

USC-Upstate took their first lead of the game at 13-12 when Michael Buchanan made a free throw with 9:04 left in the opening half. The teams then traded the lead before Ty Green of the Spartans made a layup off a steal, Buchanan followed with another layup and Fred Miller knocked down a jumper to give USC-Upstate a 21-14 lead. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon called a 30-second timeout with six minutes left before halftime as the Terps were going cold from the floor. After Calvert Hall College grad Jon Graham made a layup to give the Terps a 14-13 lead at the 8:40 mark, the Terps went without a field goal for just over five minutes, and went scoreless for 4:16. They missed 13 of their final 16 shots in the first half, and shot only 25.7 percent, including just two for 17 from the three-point line. Maryland went into the locker room trailing 28-24.

“Their zone was tough. Their offense was really good. They grind you, they run it,” Turgeon said. He went on to praise the quality of the Spartans’ players, saying they didn’t really have any weak spots, and that’s why they’re still 8-3 following the game. USC-Upstate’s 1-2-2 zone frustrated Maryland’s shooters.

“And then we couldn’t make a shot in the first half, shots that we normally make,” Turgeon said. “I think if we make a few shots, it’s maybe a little bit even different score.” Turgeon said he and his staff changed up the offense with about eight minutes left in the first half, and then talked to the players about driving to the basket more in the second half. The Spartans’ zone was less effective in the second half.

“They were really pressuring us. They were communicating; they had a lot of energy. I mean, our shots weren’t falling, but in the second half, it kind of wore down, and we started to attack the basket more and make shots,” Trimble said.

Maryland came out attacking to start the second half, drawing two fouls on USC-Upstate in the first 66 seconds. The crowd started getting involved after Jared Nickens hit a three two and a half minutes in to pull the Terps to within two at 33-31. Maryland continued to turn up the pressure when Trimble made a layup and was fouled by Buchanan, and Layman threw down a dunk after his missed jumper was rebounded by Pack. Layman then made a layup and a jumper sandwiched around a Smotrycz three to extend Maryland’s lead to 43-37 with 11:37 to play, drawing a loud ovation and forcing the Spartans to call timeout. The Terps used a 6-0 run over a roughly 90-second stretch around the midway point of the second half to stretch their lead to 49-39. After the Spartans cut that lead in half, Layman hit a three with 7:19 left to give Maryland an eight-point lead, and added another with just over a minute and a half left to end any hopes of an upset by the Spartans. Maryland shot 65 percent in the second half, including four of eight from beyond the arc. The Terps were rewarded for attacking the basket in the second half, going 13 of 17 from the free throw line.

Layman was more of a factor in the second half, scoring 16 points after making just one free throw in the first half. He said the coaches wanted the team to be more aggressive, and Layman even admitted that he felt he wasn’t aggressive enough in the first half.

“I wasn’t really looking for my shot. I kind of settled for some threes that I probably shouldn’t have taken,” Layman said, adding that in some cases he settled for quick threes and other tough shots. “And then, just to kind of get myself going, I tried to get the ball in the paint a little bit, found some guys that were open. Richaud had some great passes to me.” Layman said Maryland’s ball movement was much better in the second half.

Smotrycz, in just his third game of the season after breaking a toe in October, was praised by both Turgeon and his teammates for what his presence on the floor meant to the team.

“He basically was telling me things to do and what to say to my teammates. He was very vocal out there. He helped me get through the screens,” said Tremble when asked about the lift Smotrycz provided. Layman added that Smotrycz stretches the floor and opens things up for the rest of the team. Smotrycz says he’s still trying to get back in game shape after missing so much time with his injury.

“I got to use a little more legs. My first shot I was kind of dead, so that one was well short,” said Smotrycz, who scored five points during the crucial run midway through the second half. He says it’ll take a little more time to get where he was before the injury.

“I’m not in the best shape right now, and obviously not moving the best I can, but…I haven’t practiced in a while, and I’ve only played in like one and a half games, so it’ll take some time but it’s coming,” said Smotrycz, who said his foot was a little sore after the game.

Maryland (10-1) held USC-Upstate to 37 percent shooting from the floor, and Turgeon praised his team for how it played on defense for all 40 minutes. The Terps’ next game will be on Dec. 21 at Oklahoma State (7-1).

Ngata Suspended For Rest of Regular Season

Another Baltimore player has been suspended for using Adderall.

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was suspended for four games by the NFL after testing positive for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug, which is considered a performance-enhancing drug, and is banned under the league’s PED policy. The suspension was announced on Dec. 4, and comes at the start of a critical final month of the regular season, with half a dozen teams, including Baltimore and two of its upcoming opponents in December – Miami and Cleveland – sitting at 7-5. Ngata will be able to play again if the Ravens make the playoffs.

Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowler, is the second player on one of Baltimore’s pro teams to be suspended for using Adderall. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was suspended in September after testing positive for the drug, and will have to sit out Opening Day 2015 for the final game of his 25-game suspension. Ngata also isn’t the first Raven to be suspended for Adderall. Cornerback Asa Jackson was suspended for the final four games of his rookie season in 2012 after testing positive, and again for the first half of the 2013 season after a second positive test.

Rice’s Suspension Overturned; Teams Expressing Interest

Ray Rice will be able to resume his NFL career.

The former Ravens running back’s appeal was heard earlier this month in New York City by former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones on Nov. 5 and 6. During the hearings, Rice and his wife Janay, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens President Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome were among the key figures who were called to testify. On Nov. 28, Judge Jones released her decision, and ruled that Goodell’s indefinite suspension of Rice was “arbitrary.” Jones went on to write that because the imposition of discipline wasn’t consistent, “an abuse of discretion” had occurred on Goodell’s part. She also wrote that the NFL failed to prove that Rice was misleading when he and his wife met with Commissioner Goodell at the league offices back in June. However, Judge Jones did allow the league’s original two-game suspension to stand.

In the days since Rice’s reinstatement, ESPN has been reporting that four teams are expressing interest in rice, including the Saints and Colts. However, ESPN’s sources are reporting that it’s unlikely any teams will sign Rice before the end of this season. Any team that might sign Rice now would be a playoff contender that’s dealing with injuries to its running backs. Another factor is reportedly how Rice would be received in the locker room. Another scenario is that Rice may wait and see what happens during the offseason.

Orioles Hot Stove: Markakis, Cruz leave on free agent market

A key player on this year’s Orioles team, and a long-time outfielder who helped the team return from the doldrums to relevance in Major League Baseball have both left Baltimore via the free agent market.

Left fielder and designated hitter Nelson Cruz has returned to the American League West after signing a four-year, $57 million contract with the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 1. Cruz was named the team’s MVP after hitting .271 with 40 home runs and 108 runs batted in. He added two home runs and five RBI during the Orioles’ playoff run. He rejected Baltimore’s $15.3 million, one-year qualifying offer before signing with the Mariners. As a result, the Orioles will receive a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of the MLB Entry Draft next June.

Long-time right fielder Nick Markakis has also left Baltimore. Markakis, who debuted with the Orioles in 2006 after coming up through their minor league system, signed a four-year contract valued at $44-45 million with the Atlanta Braves on Dec. 3. Just days earlier, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant general manager John Coppolella flew up to Maryland to meet with Markakis and his agent for dinner. Atlanta was in the market for a right fielder after trading Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals back in November. Markakis hit .276 with 14 home runs, 50 RBI and a .344 on-base percentage, and also won the American League Gold Glove in right field. He played in college at Young Harris Junior College before being drafted by the Orioles in 2003. Baltimore declined its half of a mutual option on Markakis at the end of October. In his nine seasons with the Orioles, he hit .290 with 141 homers.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have made contract offers to 11 players who are eligible for salary arbitration, including first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters, utility players Ryan Flaherty and Steve Pearce, starting pitchers Chris Tillman, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, and relievers Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and closer Zach Britton.

In addition to Markakis, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones were announces as American League Gold Glove winners on Nov. 4. Hardy edged out Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox and Alcides Escobar of the A..L. champion Kansas City Royals to win the award at shortstop for the third straight year. Jones also won his third straight Gold Glove in center.

Manager Buck Showalter was named A..L. Manager of the Year for a third time. He also won the award in 1994 with the New York Yankees and in 2004 with the Texas Rangers. General Manager Dan Duquette was the consensus A.L. Executive of the Year, receiving honors from both The Sporting News and Baseball America. However, Duquette has his work cut out for him this offseason, as he now has to fill out a 40-man roster that currently stands at 32 players. According to MLB.com Orioles reporter Brittany Ghiroli, the Orioles’ top priorities will be adding depth to its outfield and bullpen during the upcoming Winter Meetings in Phoenix.