The ninth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team began the season by overwhelming Coppin State on Friday night, 93-36, pulling away in the first half behind balanced scoring, stifling defense and aggressive offensive rebounding.
All 10 players on the roster scored for the Terrapins, who won their 10th consecutive season opener. Maryland improved to 16-0 in home openers at Xfinity Center and has lost just one season opener since Coach Brenda Frese took over in 2002-03.
A 15-3 run to close the first quarter provided a 31-13 lead and all but settled the outcome of the contest in which Maryland owned a 71-39 margin in rebounding, including 33-13 offensively, and 34-4 in points off turnovers. The Terrapins forced 20 turnovers while committing eight.
“Obviously it was great to get so many players on the floor and really involved,” Frese said. “I think you can see the potential of this team with our vets and our young players and the impact as we kind of grow together as a team.
“You look at our unselfishness, we assisted on over 66 percent of our buckets. Our offensive rebounding I thought was tremendous.”
Forward-center Shakira Austin collected a game-high 21 rebounds, eight on the offensive end, as Maryland to coasted to a 28-7 margin in second-chance points. The Terrapins also used their pronounced advantage in height and length to finish plus-22 on points in the paint.
Austin (Riverdale Baptist) is the centerpiece of another highly regarded freshman class under Frese. The 6-foot-5 McDonald’s all-American had a game-high seven blocks and provided a formidable low-post presence in a loaded front court.
Traditionally among the best rebounding teams in the country, Maryland also possesses firepower from three-point range this season, most notably with the arrival of Taylor Mikesell. The 5-11 freshman guard won a national high school three-point shooting contest in San Antonio as a senior.
Mikesell scored 10 of her game-high 18 points during the first quarter when she made two of her first three three-point attempts. The Terrapins sank four three-pointers in the first quarter on 21 attempts and finished the game 8 of 28 from beyond the arc.
“They present a certain way I think when they come in,” Frese said of the freshmen. “From Shakira and Taylor’s end, they’ve been more than prepared and ready since they stepped on campus. That goes with all the experience they’ve had leading up to this time.”
Junior Kaila Charles, the Terrapins’ most skilled all-around player, had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The first-team all-Big Ten selection as a sophomore was Maryland’s leading scorer in 2017-18, but Frese has tasked Charles with contributing in other ways this season.
Charles, The Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year as a senior at Riverdale Baptist, had two of Maryland’s nine steals against the Eagles, who shot 25 percent and went 5 of 19 (28 percent) from the free throw line. She was part of Maryland’s top-rated recruiting class as a freshman.
“That’s our goal for the whole season, to have everybody play an integral part because we have so many weapons inside and out,” Charles said. “We need to be able to utilize that so we can be good as a team and go far.”
Junior forward Stephanie Jones, the younger sister of former Terrapins standout center Brionna Jones, chipped in 17 points and 12 rebounds as well as a game-high three steals.
The comfortable victory also included the first game back for Blair Watson. The junior guard and former McDonald’s all-American tore the ACL in her right knee last January and missed the season’s final 17 games.
“It’s been a long wait to be back on the court,” said Watson, who had surgery Feb. 6. “Definitely being in the shadows kind of gave me a different perspective for the game and an appreciation for it. To be back out there tonight, it was kind of surreal. Just kind of having fun with my teammates again was very, very special.”