COLLEGE PARK -- It's a new year for the Maryland women's basketball team, but some of the same problems that plagued it last year returned in last night's 68-53 season-opening loss to Virginia Tech at Cole Field House in the inaugural Women's Preseason National Invitation Tournament.
Defensive lapses along the front line and extended scoring droughts, bugaboos in last season's 15-13 campaign, combined with the inexperience on the current squad, particularly up front, contributed to Maryland's demise.
The Terrapins (0-1) managed to shoot only 32 percent for the game. They scored only 17 points in the first half on the way to what would be their first season-opening loss in 10 years.
"I think it's very important that we do not reward individual achievements," said a clearly angry Maryland coach Chris Weller. "As long as the team loses, there are no individual successes."
In the next two weeks, the Terps, who will host Mount St. Mary's Nov. 26, will need to shore up their interior defense. Last night, Virginia Tech constantly worked the backdoor cut to perfection.
Maryland could also use some work at recognizing and attacking defenses, as they looked tentative confronting the Hokies' zones and traps.
"We wasted so much time Mickey Mousing our way down the court," said Weller. "We wasted many, many more seconds off the shot clock than we needed to."
In the loss, Rachel Cimmier (seven points and seven rebounds) and Kelley Gibson (a team-high 12 points and five rebounds) were encouraging with their hustle.
But they were no match for the Hokies' starting frontcourt of senior center Jenny Root, the game's most valuable player with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and senior forwards Christi Osborne and Angela Donnell, who teamed to hit 16 of 25 shots.
Meanwhile, the Maryland forwards -- freshman Kelley Gibson and senior Kesha Camper -- and freshman center Cimmier shot just 11-for-30.
The Hokies (1-0), who returned four starters from a team that won the Metro Conference tournament last season, exposed Maryland's weaknesses inside in the first half, limiting the younger, smaller Terrapins to one shot on most possessions and outrebounding them 26-12.
With six newcomers, Weller struggled to find a formula that worked.
"That's going to be our biggest challenge -- coming up with a starting lineup. We don't have that yet, or a substituting pattern," said Weller. "Possibly it was a bit much to expect us to be ready by Nov. 15."
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, was crisp at both ends of the floor, mixing fast breaks with a nice inside game.
"They're going to be a good team," Virginia Tech coach Carol Alfano said of Maryland. "I'm glad to get them in November. I don't want to be in here in February."