The Maryland women’s basketball team doesn’t begin ACC competition until Monday, but the fifth-ranked Terrapins got a sample of what the grueling conference demands in an 85-76 victory over No. 19 Delaware that had the feel of an NCAA tournament game.
In winning the Terrapin Classic final before 8,733 on Thursday and extending its unbeaten streak to 13, Maryland received a career-high 25 points from sophomore guard Laurin Mincy, 23 from tournament MVP Alyssa Thomas and 16 from senior point guard Anjale Barrett. That production was enough to offset 32 points from Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne, the leading scorer in the country who entered averaging 29 points.
“What a great collegiate game,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought both teams laid it out there on the floor. Excited obviously about our defense tonight collectively. Obviously Elena is a special player, and we made her have to work to get 32 points. I thought our team worked extremely hard.”
Dealing with Delle Donne meant sacrifices for Maryland’s normally overpowering front court, which on this night swapped scoring and volume rebounding for rugged interior defense. The Blue Hens got just eight points combined from center Akeema Richards and forward Danielle Parker, both starters, and apart from Delle Donne, the other starters shot 11 for 30 in Delaware’s first loss of the season.
The NCAA leader in rebounding margin at better than 20 a game, Maryland (13-0) finished with eight more than Delaware, which tired in the second half from the frequent jostling in the paint. Maryland outrebounded its neighbor from just across the state line 20-13 after intermission and made five of its seven three-pointers in that half.
None was more impactful than Mincy’s with 13 minutes 52 seconds to play. That basket from beyond the arc expanded Maryland’s lead to 56-46 and capped a 15-2 burst that began with Mincy’s steal and layup. After Mincy sank two foul shots to stem a Delaware run, Barrett scored Maryland’s next seven points, including a three-pointer at 11:05 for a 63-50 cushion.
But thereafter the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne showed why she’s in the running for national player of the year.
She scored 24 points in the second half, and 16 came during a stretch in which the Blue Hens whittled the lead to 78-71 with 4:19 to play.
Frese called a timeout at that point, and out of the break, senior center Lynetta Kizer made 1 of 2 foul shots. After Delle Donne sank two free throws, Barrett pulled up and swished a jumper from just inside the three-point line for an 81-73 advantage with 3:18 to play. Delaware (10-1) didn’t score again for nearly 21 / 2 minutes, and Maryland made all four of its free throws in the closing seconds to seal it.
“I thought Maryland showed why they’re a top-five team in the country,” Blue Hens Coach Tina Martin said.
Maryland built a 10-point lead late in the first half when Thomas weaved between a pair of defenders, made the layup and got fouled before sinking the bonus free throw. But Delaware scored the next 11 points, five of which came from the line, to take its first lead since the opening minutes, 38-37. Delle Donne and Jocelyn Bailey accounted for all the scoring in that run.
The Terrapins got the last word in the first half, though, with reserve forward Whitney Bays collecting a rebound and putting it back with 27 seconds left until intermission. That field goal ended more than four minutes without a point for Maryland, which finished the half with four players, including three starters, with two fouls.
“This game right here prepares us for the ACC, what we’re going to face day in and day out,” said Barrett, who added eight assists. “I think it definitely was a good snippet of what we’re going to get.”