Terps Win With Minimal Suspense
Monday, January 22, 2007
The fans at Comcast Center enjoyed their only moments of suspense at halftime and during a short break in the second half yesterday, when the game already was out of reach.
The first instance came when a man plucked from the crowd attempted to convert a layup, free throw and three-pointer to win a prize. The other high point came when a young boy in a Terrapins jersey took top honors in the "Dance For Your Dinner" contest.
And that was it for any sort of tension because the main attraction -- the game -- took on the character of a scrimmage as No. 3 Maryland beat overmatched Wake Forest, 83-60, even with a defensive drop-off in the second half that became the keynote of Coach Brenda Frese's longer-than-normal postgame speech.
The Terrapins reached 20 wins for the third-straight season -- the first time that has happened since 1980 -- and never trailed while winning their 19th straight at Comcast Center dating from last January.
"I'm proud of the fact of the team getting the 20 wins so quickly," said Frese, whose team is 20-1, 4-1 in the ACC. "Obviously, it says a lot about the heart of this team, their character and about how hard they worked."
As per usual, Maryland experienced few problems offensively. Forward Marissa Coleman scored 21 points to lead four Terrapins in double figures. Ashleigh Newman, known primarily for her defense, finished with 20 points, including 13 in a row during a stretch of the second half.
"The main focus for me is defense," Newman said. "And when my offense is clicking, it's just an added bonus for this team."
Although center Crystal Langhorne failed to score in double figures for the first time in 44 games, a span of more than a year, the Terrapins scored the most points that Wake Forest (8-11, 0-6) has allowed this season.
It was the Terrapins' defensive performance, however, that caught Frese's attention.
"We just got done discussing that," she said. "I'm not sure how much more it's going to take. I thought we learned our lesson in the Duke game. Our defense has just got to move up to the level of our offense."
Frese said she was pleased when the Terrapins limited Wake Forest to 6-of-33 shooting (18.2 percent) in the first half, largely preventing the Demon Deacons from running their offense. Twice, Maryland kept Wake Forest off the scoreboard for at least four minutes. Wake Forest's Yolanda Lavender, a Washington native and the ACC's second-leading scorer, went 1 of 13 from the field. Alex Tchangoue, the team's second-leading scorer, went 1 for 11. The Terrapins led 41-16 at halftime.
But the Terrapins were nowhere close to that level in the second half, when Lavender scored 16 of her team-high 22 points, Tchangoue scored 18 of her 20 and the Demon Deacons' shooting percentage jumped to 45.2.
Even so, the Demon Deacons never got back into the game, leaving the Terrapins with a familiar challenge: maintaining defensive intensity despite leading big in the second half.
"At times, it's difficult," sophomore guard Kristi Toliver said. "But that's where our team needs to change the mentality, and just try to put on the knockout punch and keep playing aggressive defense for the entire game, 40 minutes."
The Terrapins entered the game averaging more than a 20-point lead at halftime -- and held a 25-point edge yesterday -- but Frese again challenged her team to change its ways, no matter the lack of suspense.
"The challenge has got to come from within as a competitor, the fact that you want to be dominant when you play a game," Frese said. "The challenge is not looking at the scoreboard or who you're playing and challenge yourself because you are a competitor, a winner, and you want to make a statement when you're out on the floor."