Two-time ACC women’s basketball player of the year Alyssa Thomasfound herself spending an inordinate amount of time on the bench during the first half of Maryland’s home opener Sunday, the second straight game in which the preseason all-American has been plagued by foul trouble.
It took all of five minutes following intermission for the senior to reassert herself, though, in an 89-53 victory over Loyola in front of 3,417 at Comcast Center.
Thomas scored six of her game-high-tying 14 points during an 11-3 run to open the second half and collected 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Senior center Alicia DeVaughn added 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting with six rebounds.
No. 8 Maryland (2-0) had 11 players score and five reach double figures, highlighting the team’s depth in a season in which officials are calling games much tighter following an NCAA mandate for stricter enforcement of rules such as hand-checking. The teams combined for 25 personal fouls in a first half in which the Terrapins went to the line 22 times, making 20.
“The flow of the game I think is difficult,” Coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought we did a nice job stepping up and making free throws, which we’re obviously going to have to have with this new rule. I thought in spurts we were able to get our transition game going, especially in the second half.”
Maryland closed the first half on an 11-2 run, with seven of those points coming from the free throw line. The Terrapins made 29 of 35 free throws but also had eight players who committed multiple fouls.
Such was Thomas’s circumstance throughout Friday’s 78-70 road win against South Florida — when she played just 10 minutes — and during the first half Sunday, when she committed her two fouls. But on Maryland’s first possession of the second half, Thomas sank a jump shot and moments later added another jumper for a 50-28 lead.
Sharing point-guard duties last season because of an injury-depleted roster, Thomas again had the ball in her hands on the fast break frequently against the Greyhounds, who went to the foul line only 16 times and had one player score in double figures.
Thomas assisted on Maryland’s third basket during the second-half burst that expanded the lead to 53-28, started a fast break for another easy basket and sank her third straight jumper to make it 57-28 with 15 minutes 53 seconds left in regulation.
“You kind of just still have to feel it out what they’re going to allow you to do and what they’re not going to allow you to do,” Thomas said of the officiating.
Despite the rules modifications, what hasn’t changed for Maryland from years past is attention to rebounding. The Terrapins were second in the country in rebounding margin last season, and they outrebounded Loyola 49-27 on Sunday, including 19-6 offensively.
Maryland also shot 53 percent in the second half, came out ahead handily in second-chance points (23-2) and points in the paint (44-22) and got 43 points from its reserves while forcing 23 turnovers.
“Having depth makes you not overthink it, knowing that you do have other people behind you who are capable of doing just as good as you,” DeVaughn said. “It does make you feel free on the court knowing that you do have that support from the team.”