NCAA women's tournament: Maryland breezes past St. Francis (Pa.)

After a one-year absence, Dara Taylor and the Terrapins make their presence known in the NCAA women's tournament.
After a one-year absence, Dara Taylor and the Terrapins make their presence known in the NCAA women's tournament. (Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2011; 11:27 AM

The pass was a bit high and delivered with a little extra zip, but Maryland's Alyssa Thomas never flinched. The ACC rookie of the year instead gathered the ball as she leapt and redirected it immediately to trailing teammate Laurin Mincy, who scored an easy layup early in the first half against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Sunday.

That fast-break basket highlighted the Terrapins' opening barrage during which they did not give up a point for the first five minutes, and at that very early point in the game, any uncertainty over the final outcome had been eliminated.

So thorough was the 70-48 victory before 5,258 at Comcast Center that fourth-seeded Maryland was able to play its entire roster and did not use any of its timeouts. That allowed the Terrapins to enjoy their first NCAA tournament game in two years after failing to earn a berth last season, when many of Maryland's current regulars were completing their high school careers.

Among those players was Thomas, who finished with a game-high 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals without a turnover. Junior center Lynetta Kizer had 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds and junior guard Anjale Barrett also had 11 points thanks mostly to 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

Barrett contributed one of those three-pointers during Maryland's initial 13-0 onslaught, and the lead soon swelled to 17-2 before Saint Francis called its second timeout of the half.

The Terrapins came out of the break with six straight points, including another three-pointer by Barrett, and continued to coast from there to a second-round game against Georgetown on Tuesday night.

"I felt like it was important to go into halftime and know that they were going back to their locker room without any kind of confidence or any kind of hope of being in this game," said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, whose team led 40-17 at the break.

"Credit our team. I thought we were ready to play, especially with the time off. That's their psyche, just having themselves mentally prepared."

The Terrapins (24-7) were playing for the first time in more than two weeks, but it hardly showed. Their last game was a 70-64 loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on March 4, and it came in uncommon fashion, with Maryland losing the rebounding battle for the just the fourth time this season.

There was no concern about that happening against No. 13 seed Saint Francis (22-12), which was at a considerable height disadvantage. Fourth in the country in rebounding margin, the Terrapins were plus-17 on Sunday, including 21-12 offensively, and held a 32-16 advantage in inside points.

"It's the toughest challenge to overcome. It's just a fact," Red Flash Coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl said of the size disparity. "There's things you can do, and things we had worked on, but we didn't execute well enough in the first half."

It wasn't just inside where Maryland asserted itself.

The Terrapins also limited the Red Flash to 31 percent shooting overall, with a special emphasis on preventing three-pointers.

Saint Francis shot just 27 percent from there, infrequently getting a clear look at the basket because of Maryland's length while defending the perimeter.

Sophomore guard Nickia Gibbs (Eleanor Roosevelt High) and junior guard Brittany Lilley (Severna Park High) each scored a team-high 10 points for the Red Flash, which qualified for the tournament as champions of the Northeast Conference. Senior guard Samantha Leach added nine points, and freshman guard-forward Alexandra Williams chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds.

"It was just pretty much us telling ourselves that we were going to come out and be ready to play," Kizer said of Maryland's rousing start. "I think that's something that we did. Everybody was talking. It's just us being excited. I think we did a good job, and it's about sustaining it for 40 minutes."

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