Terrapins Are Set Back on Their Heels
Monday, January 29, 2007
Bitter rivals Duke and North Carolina don't share much in common -- except both teams have figured out how to beat Maryland. For the second time in two weeks, the third-ranked Terrapins were undone by a defensive effort that took them out of what they wanted to do offensively.
By taking a page from Duke's game plan against Maryland, No. 2 North Carolina beat the Terrapins, 84-71, their second loss in two weeks.
"We didn't play real well, and a lot of that was dictated by Carolina's defense," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said.
When the two most potent offenses in the country met last night at Comcast Center, the result was not the high-scoring game most expected. Instead, Maryland and North Carolina didn't pick up the pace until late in the second half. For the first 20 minutes, this game seemed to be played in sludge.
As the defending national champions, the Terrapins are accustomed to having the spotlight shining brightly on them. But in this nationally televised game before a sellout crowd, they were surprisingly awkward and anxious. They botched passes and rushed shots. Their 14 turnovers in the first half were three shy of their season average for a game. Maryland, which leads the nation with a 51.8 field goal percentage, managed to make only 29.4 percent of its shots and scored just 27 points before halftime. The Terrapins finished with 21 turnovers and a 38.6 field goal percentage.
"We were on the back of our heels, making soft passes and not displaying the kind of confidence that we usually display on the offensive end," Frese said.
North Carolina had a lot of motivation entering this game. The Tar Heels had suffered only two losses in their last 57 games -- both to Maryland -- and they channeled that revenge into their defense. Just like Duke, North Carolina made Maryland play a different style than it wanted.
"We try to take people out of their comfort zones and make them play a little more herky-jerky," North Carolina Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We do a lot of things on defense that most people don't see. When we do trap and some of our rotations, we do some very unorthodox things out there but yet it pays off for us because it takes the other team out of their rhythm and flow."
Maryland found its rhythm in the second half, cutting a 20-point deficit to one. The Terrapins' furious comeback, however, came almost entirely at the hands of their talented guards, led by Shay Doron's 13 second-half points. As North Carolina spread its defense to cover Maryland's shooters, the Terrapins failed to take advantage of their post players. After junior forward Crystal Langhorne, Maryland's leading scorer, made a layup with 11 minutes 1 second to play, she touched the ball only once more on the offensive end for the remainder of the game. None of the other post players had any scoring attempts. Langhorne, who finished with 14 points, scored only four points in the second half.
"They kept trying to score from the outside and not throw it in when we started coming out" to guard the perimeter, Hatchell said. "I was glad they didn't try to throw it in more because they would have had single coverage inside if they had."