The Maryland Lady Terrapins were picked to win the Big Ten Conference, even though this season is their first in the conference. While they’ve been proving the coaches and media right so far this season, they got off to a less-than-stellar start against a struggling team.
The Michigan State Lady Spartans came into College Park on Jan. 22 with a record of 9-9 overall, but just 1-6 in the Big Ten. Four out of their five normal starters were out with injuries, and the team was only dressing seven players. Michigan State hit two of their first three shots, while Maryland missed their first three to fall behind 5-0 just a minute and a half into the game. Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said the Spartans took it to her team early.
“I thought they came in and were really aggressive, took it to us rebounding-wise to start the game,” Frese said.
Meanwhile, Terps guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had to briefly take a seat on the bench after taking a hit to the face that left her with a bloody nose and blood on the court. After Aerial Jones hit a three to give the Spartans an 11-7 lead with 14:08 left in the first half, Maryland got going and started imposing its will.
Laurin Mincy made a pair of layups, and Brionna Jones made a jump shot after rebounding her own miss during an 8-0 run to give Maryland a 15-11 lead with 11:22 left in the half. The Terrapins also started forcing the Spartans to take a lot of time on their possessions, keeping them out near the center circle late into the shot clock and forcing them to rush up shots before the shot clock expired. Maryland forced two shot clock violations in the first half. Leading by three with five minutes left, the Terps defense stiffened even more, going on a 12-4 run to take a 37-26 lead into halftime. At one point during that stretch, Maryland hit six straight shots and forced four turnovers.
The Terrapins didn’t miss a beat coming out of halftime. Maryland went on a 10-4 run to take a 47-30 lead when a media timeout was called with 15:47 left in the second half. The lead only grew from there. Maryland pulled out to a 32-point lead, and cruised to an 85-56 win to improve to 16-2 overall, and 7-0 in conference. Mincy finished with 17 points on seven of 13 shooting to lead five players in double-figure scoring. Lexie Brown added a dozen points with seven assists, and Brionna Jones also had a dozen points to go with six rebounds. That was enough to overcome a game-high 28 points and 16 rebounds by Powers. Maryland shot 52.9 percent from the floor in the second half, and 50 percent for the game, thanks in large part to 46 points in the paint. The Spartans missed 12 out of their last 14 shots, and shot just 26.7 percent from the floor in the second half. Frese liked how her team was sharing the ball.
“I really liked obviously how we shared the basketball tonight. When you talk about our lowest in terms of turnovers…I thought we were extremely unselfish, made easy plays for each other offensively, which made the game open up for everybody,” Frese said at the beginning of the postgame press conference about her team’s 21 assists on 33 baskets to just nine turnovers. Frese explained how Maryland used its depth to overpower Michigan State.
“To be able to send waves in this game I thought was really important where we could wear Michigan State down. That’s going to be a big plus for us moving forward is to be able to continue to use the depth that we have,” Frese said. Getting stops on defense continues to be the key for Maryland.
“I think when we get stops to transition, and really get going, we kind of feed off of that…I think when you talk about how unselfish our guard play is right now, looking for each other in transition inside really opened it up for us,” Frese said. As it turns out, when her team gets rolling, it’s fun for her players.
“I feel like we have our best runs when we’re having the most fun,” Brown said. “So when we start playing all 40 minutes like that, then we’re going to be scary.”
Maryland will travel to Indiana on Jan. 25, and then play 20th-ranked Iowa on Super Bowl Sunday at home, where they’re now 10-0 on the season.