Rounding out her game

Maryland's Coleman puts a greater emphasis on her defense

College Basketball


The final numbers were impressive: 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting - including 1-for-1 from three-point range - 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 32 minutes.

But of all the statistics Marissa Coleman could have focused on after the Maryland women's basketball team pummeled Appalachian State by 59 points 12 days ago, Coleman's eyes rested on one: seven turnovers.

It was an alarming total, but not inconceivable considering that Coleman, a 6-foot-1 freshman, logged more minutes than any other player in that game and has been asked to play every position but center for the No. 8 Terrapins (8-1).

Still, Coleman chastised herself for not protecting the ball better.

"When they show me the box score, I don't really focus on the points. I'm looking at my turnovers and my assists and my rebounds," she said. "I did realize that I had seven turnovers, so I need to work on that."

Overall, however, the addition of Coleman has been a positive for a Maryland team that has moved up six spots from its No. 14 preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll.

Coleman leads the Terps in scoring with an average of 17.4 points per game, is second in blocks with 15, is third in field-goal percentage with 62.4 and fourth in rebounds with 6.6 - despite starting just one game.

Until she missed the Dec. 4 game against Mount St. Mary's with a mild ankle sprain, she and sophomore center Crystal Langhorne were the only two Maryland players to score in double figures in every game. Coleman is coming off a team-high 20-point effort Sunday in a win over Arizona, and yesterday she was named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week for the second time.

The Terps play host to Coppin State (1-3) tonight at 7.

Coleman's prowess on the court has been on display ever since she played for St. John's College High School in Washington, where she set school records for points (2,057) and rebounds (1,750), was the city's Gatorade Player of the Year her final two seasons, and was named a McDonald's and Parade All-American her senior year.

Yet Coleman admitted she rarely had to play defense because there were few high school players on a par with her.

"I think her biggest jump still needs to come from the defensive end, and that's always the hardest area for a young player," Terps coach Brenda Frese said. "She's come in with a great offensive game, her size and her rebounding ability, but defensively is where I think she needs to improve the most."

To improve her foot speed and lateral quickness, Coleman has been marking guards Kristi Toliver and Shay Doron - two of Maryland's fastest players - during practice.

"I do tend to get down on myself, and it's always the defense," she said. "I'm always trying, but sometimes it doesn't seem to be working."

Her biggest supporters have been her teammates. She credits Doron and Langhorne with encouraging her during and after practice.

"I think that's important for us to let our teammates know that because they're so young and they're going to get better," Langhorne said. "Marissa's a great player, and I know that she's going to go through what I went through last year. ... We don't want to harp on them for having turnovers. I think being positive with them is really going to help them improve."

The one area Coleman doesn't have to concern herself with is scoring. Not only has she made the collegiate transition, but she's also surrounded by Doron, Langhorne, Toliver and sophomore forward Laura Harper - all of whom are averaging in double figures in scoring.

"We have so many options who can score that you can't focus on one player," Coleman said. "My main thing is not scoring. I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to help my team win. If that means making an extra pass or grabbing rebounds, then that's what I'm going to try to do."

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