Since Coach Brenda Frese arrived in College Park nine years ago, Maryland has become the area’s preeminent women’s basketball program. One national championship, three region final appearances and a 16-5 record in the NCAA tournament validate that.
Reminders of the 2006 national title are ubiquitous at Comcast Center — from an oversized wall painting outside the team’s locker room to the banner prominently displayed high above the stands. So are flags commemorating the school’s many other titles and the luminaries who have played for one of the ACC’s flagship programs.
Into that environment comes Georgetown, Maryland’s opponent Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Reverence clearly is of little interest to the Hoyas, who feel they have been deferring to their neighbor for far too long.
“I don’t think we’re very concerned in terms of the legacy of a team, what a team has done,” said Hoyas senior guard Monica McNutt, who played high school basketball at Holy Cross and is supremely familiar with Maryland’s history. “I’m a local girl, so I had the opportunity to watch those championship teams. Marissa Coleman is not there anymore. Things have changed. Not that they’re not a very good team, but it’s about the kids that are on the floor now.”
It isn’t just conceit on the part of Georgetown either. The fifth-seeded Hoyas (23-10) have the paperwork to support those claims following a second straight NCAA tournament appearance, a victory over Tennessee this season and, most convincing, a 53-45 win against Maryland in November.
Which of course rankles the fourth-seeded Terrapins (24-7) to no end, though players and the coaching staff aren’t letting on with television cameras rolling. They instead are minding their manners in public, issuing one endorsement after the other regarding the quality of Georgetown’s program and disengaging from questions about women’s basketball superiority in the Washington area.
Yet in the Maryland locker room, taped onto framed photographs hanging from the wall, are pages of daring quotes from Georgetown, underscoring that a rivalry is very much at hand despite limited history between the schools.
“It’s on everyone’s mind,” junior point guard Anjale Barrett said. “If you lose one, of course you want to get that team back.”
Barrett was among the most accountable in the loss to Georgetown at McDonough Arena, turning over the ball six times with no assists. The Terrapins committed a season-high 29 turnovers in their first loss ever to the Hoyas.
Georgetown’s relentless press had a lot do with that. Because of their lack of size, the Hoyas regularly are outrebounded, but they mask that deficiency by defending full court and getting hands on loose balls.
Such was their blueprint for beating Princeton on Sunday in the first round. The Hoyas forced 15 turnovers in a 65-49 win against the Ivy League champions, and sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers did the rest with 26 points, including 16 in the first half. That total was more than the Tigers scored as a team by intermission, when Georgetown led, 34-14.
A first-team all-Big East selection, Rodgers has scored in double figures in every game but two this season. Rodgers has 16 games with at least 20 points, including 21 against Maryland, and she scored a career-high 30 in a 65-60 win against then-No. 8 West Virginia on Jan. 25.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough matchup,” said Maryland junior guard Kim Rodgers (no relation), who made only 1 of 10 three-point attempts against the Hoyas. “She’s a really good player. We’re really going to try to focus on being there on the catch and making sure she doesn’t get any open looks.”
An intriguing prospect would be calling on freshman guard-forward Alyssa Thomas for assistance. The ACC rookie of the year is the Terrapins’ most athletic player and leader in steals, but shadowing Sugar Rodgers could deplete Thomas offensively. She leads Maryland in scoring (14.2 points per game) and minutes (26.8) but had just seven points in 17 minutes against the Hoyas.
Thomas also frequently sets up in the front court, where Maryland has a considerable advantage. The Terrapins, who beat St. Francis (Pa.), 70-48, in the first round, are fourth in the country in rebounding margin (plus-12.5) and have outrebounded all but four opponents. They outrebounded Georgetown, 63-44, and had nearly twice as many offensive rebounds.
None of which particularly bothers the Hoyas, who revealed during their news conference that they’ve been talking about the next round, but not in so much detail as to overlook the task at hand.
“You want us to be scared because we’re at Maryland?” Georgetown Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We’re not scared. I think Monica McNutt probably said it the best. We played Tennessee. We played Georgia Tech. We played U-Conn. We play very tough opponents. I think this team is well prepared to handle anything that’s thrown at them because we’ve already been in it.”