Maryland vs. Georgia Tech: Terrapins bounced from the ACC tournament

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 5, 2011; 1:48 AM

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Frequent peaks and valleys have made for a most erratic season for the 13th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team. Friday's 70-64 loss to Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament proved to be a microcosm of that instability.

In a game that featured 15 lead changes, the fourth-seeded Terrapins were unable to hold an 11-point cushion in the second half, leaving themselves with a two-week wait before they play again. Maryland is expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will host first- and second-round games at Comcast Center.

Meantime, the Terrapins will have plenty of time to reflect on the early exit, in which they faltered on the boards. Maryland entered the game ranked third nationally in rebounding margin and led the ACC overall in that category, but the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets managed a 36-27 advantage, including 14-8 offensively.

Maryland (23-7) also had issues with Georgia Tech's full-court pressure, which contributed to 23 Terrapins turnovers. The Yellow Jackets' press was especially robust in the second half, when Maryland shot 39 percent but managed to cut the deficit to 64-62 with 1 minute 17 minutes remaining. Georgia Tech then scored the next four points to all but seal the win.

Junior guard Kim Rodgers led the Terrapins with 13 points, making all three of her three-point shots in the second half. Rodgers was the difference against the Yellow Jackets the last time the teams played on Feb. 3. Her three-pointer at the buzzer gave Maryland a a 56-53 road victory, and eventually gave Maryland a first-round bye in the ACC tournament despite finishing tied with Georgia Tech (23-9) in the final regular season standings.

Guard-forward Alyssa Thomas added 12 points and six rebounds on Friday but played just nine minutes in the first half after accumulating a pair of early fouls. Recently named ACC rookie of the year, Thomas played 21 only minutes after playing no less than 33 minutes in each of Maryland's three previous games.

"From our end, it's disappointing," Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said. "Disappointing with the adversity that we faced, a lot of foul trouble. Obviously when Alyssa only gets to play 20 minutes in a game, it's going to be difficult."

Maryland managed to keep it together while Thomas was out, and shortly after she re-entered late in the first half, the Terrapins began a 22-2 run just before and immediately following intermission for a 41-30 lead with 16:24 left. But the Yellow Jackets countered with a 21-3 burst that included junior center Sasha Goodlett's basket with 9:54 remaining that put them up for good.

Goodlett finished with a game-high 18 points, nearly twice her average, and added nine rebounds, five of them offensive. Senior guard-forward Alex Montgomery had 17 points despite missing 8 of 12 shots, and junior guard Metra Walthour chipped in 14 points, making 4 of 6 three-pointers, to help Georgia Tech advance to the semifinals against Duke.

"Just thinking about the last game [against Maryland], letting my seniors down, coming into this game I had the mind-set that it starts with me," Goodlett said. "Like honestly that's a responsibility that I have to just embrace."

Even though Maryland had a bye and Georgia Tech played on Thursday in the opening round, the Yellow Jackets appeared more energetic when it mattered most. Their trapping defense forced Maryland to work that much harder getting the ball up the court and often compelled Frese to use three guards, meaning less presence inside.

It was just the fourth time this season Maryland has been on the short end in rebounding. The Terrapins had been a plus-13 in rebounding margin and entered averaging 46.4 rebounds per game.

"You kind of pick your poison between [the Yellow Jackets] really kind of impacting us rebounding-wise - we didn't get the rebounding numbers we're used to - but you also have to be able to get the ball up the floor in terms of your press break," Frese said. "Again you credit Georgia Tech. They came in with more energy and more intensity and outplayed us on both ends."

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