Steamrolling into ACC play on a six-game winning streak, the ninth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team’s starting lineup has matured daily, integrating two freshmen into the mix alongside a trio of seasoned veterans since Laurin Mincy tore her right anterior cruciate ligament on Nov. 28 at Nebraska.
The new unit, which slotted in Chloe Pavlech and Tierney Pfirman alongside upperclassmen Alicia DeVaughn, Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins, faced a nearly impossible task in its debut together, a loss to second-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 3. Ever since, the Terrapins have cruised.
Thomas had a game-high 22 points and Hawkins earned Terrapin Classic MVP honors with 36 points in two games as Maryland bounced Hartford, 72-40, Saturday afternoon at Comcast Center. The Terps (10-2), who won their two weekend games by a combined 72 points, next enter an ACC matchup next Thursday against 16th-ranked North Carolina.
“Like I told them, I’m excited to win our first championship, to be able to get ready now for conference play after closing the chapter of our nonconference [schedule] and getting better with the adversity we faced,” Coach Brenda Frese said.
Thomas made 7 of 14 field goals and 8 of 10 free throws. She added 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double this season and fifth in the past six games. DeVaughn chipped in 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Pfirman added 11 points and eight rebounds. Pavlech, despite shooting 1 for 5 from the field, had six assists against one turnover, her best assist-to-turnover ratio as Maryland’s point guard.
“Dominating performance today,” Frese said. “From start to finish, I thought we came out with great defensive intensity, which really led to a lot of unselfish play on the offensive end. Just the way we shared the basketball, the way we dominated the glass, we were really able to mix it up defensively.”
Maryland opened a 17-point lead by halftime, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. After DeVaughn snatched a defensive rebound and drained a three-pointer on the other end for the game’s first points, the Terrapins took a lead they never relinquished.
After Hartford pulled within 9-7, the Terps went on a 21-6 run spanning eight minutes. Maryland scored 38 points in the paint and 20 off second-chance efforts, controlling the paint with 14 offensive rebounds and 24 free-throw attempts.
“When we’re in that flow, we don’t really worry about making mistakes,” Thomas said. “We’re just having fun, playing for each other.”
With a stable lineup over the past seven games, Frese has solidified the continuity and consistency within her eight-player rotation. Though she didn’t rule out fluctuation based on matchups, Frese remains pleased with how quickly Maryland’s lineup opens games.
“You’re starting to really see that they know where each other is on the floor,” Frese said. “I think obviously, when you have two freshmen on the floor, that takes time to develop, and especially a freshman point guard. But I really feel like Chloe has gotten stronger with every game, in terms of her confidence.
“I feel like these three vets here have done a nice job adding our three freshmen and getting them to feel comfortable and confident. That’s what we have to have. We can’t have one player who’s not comfortable and confident on the floor.”