Maryland women rout Clemson, 71-51
Monday, February 15, 2010
Only two weeks remain in the regular season, leaving the Maryland women's basketball team with not much time to solidify a berth in the NCAA tournament. With a below .500 conference record, the Terrapins appear on the bubble and could be in danger of missing the tournament for the first time in six years.
Given its precarious position, Maryland couldn't afford to lose at home to Clemson, the ACC's last-place team.
The Terrapins' 71-51 victory over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Comcast Center -- their first home win in a month -- was exactly the kind of win Maryland needed going forward. The Terrapins' margin of victory was their largest in an ACC game this season.
"Given the difficult stretch we've had, just so many games, and just being able to come back, I thought we really established some confidence in our team," said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, who was honored before the game for her 250th career victory, which came at Wake Forest on Thursday. "We've really, I'd say, this last week turned the corner."
After a rocky start -- turnovers on three of its first five possessions -- Maryland (18-8, 5-6 ACC) righted itself and took command of the game. Dara Taylor sank a three-pointer to put Maryland in the lead, 5-4, and the Terrapins never trailed again, building a 20-point first-half lead. Taylor's basket seemed to energize her. The freshman point guard, who had struggled recently, finished with 17 points -- only her fourth double-figure scoring game of the season -- and five assists.
"I haven't made many threes this season," Taylor said.
"When I saw one fall, it kind of sparked me a little bit, got me going."
Lynetta Kizer, who did not start for the fourth game in a row, turned in one of her better performances in a long time. Kizer did most of her damage at the free throw line. She scored 10 of her 18 points on foul shots, making all 10 of her attempts.
"I just relaxed and let the game come to me," Kizer said. "I can't force shots."
It was an unsightly first half as the teams combined for 24 turnovers. Clemson (11-16, 2-9) also missed 26 shots, including 11 in a row during a 13-0 Maryland run.
The Tigers, who have lost 12 of their last 14 games, shot just 29 percent from the floor and had 20 turnovers. Maryland outrebounded Clemson, 48-33.
For most teams with a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores, it would be overly optimistic to expect a trip to the NCAA tournament. But Maryland has grown accustomed not just to making the tournament, but going deep. Three of the past four years, the Terrapins have advanced to the round of eight. Four years ago, they won a national championship.
But with a poor conference record and few impressive out-of-conference wins, Maryland has some work to do to improve its NCAA tournament résumé. The Terrapins have just three games remaining before the ACC tournament begins March 4 in Greensboro, N.C., and two of those games are against the top two teams in the conference -- Duke and Florida State.
"There's too much great basketball left for us in terms of how we're growing as a team," Frese said. "With the games we have remaining, the ACC tournament, the unpredictability of women's basketball this college season, that's what we're playing for -- one practice, one game at a time."