UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After the St. John's women's basketball team's victory over California in the first round of the NCAA tournament yesterday, Red Storm fans began chanting, "We want Maryland!"
The Terps gave the St. John's crowd what it was looking for as No. 3 Maryland routed undersized Sacred Heart, 95-54, before 3,990 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State.
Sophomore forward Jade Perry's 20 points spearheaded an attack featuring five players with double-digit point totals. Junior guard Shay Doron scored 17 points, sophomore forward Laura Harper had 16 points and 13 rebounds and sophomores Crystal Langhorne and Ashleigh Newman scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Maryland, the No. 2 seed in the Albuquerque Regional, improved to 29-4 and will meet the Red Storm (22-7) in a second-round game tomorrow night.
Sacred Heart (26-5) had entered yesterday's game as the region's No. 15 seed and the Northeast Conference tournament champion, but the Pioneers were overwhelmed by the Terps' size, speed and athleticism.
Maryland outscored Sacred Heart in the paint 56-14, converted 18 Pioneers turnovers into 29 points and had nearly as many offensive rebounds (23) as Sacred Heart's overall rebound total (26).
"We felt like we had the size advantage inside," Terps coach Brenda Frese said, referring to her team's seven players over 6 feet in height to the Pioneers' three. "That's what we need to have out of our bigs."
One of Sacred Heart's post players, 6-foot-1 forward Jasmine Walker drew her second foul 3:37 into the first half, and 6-4 center Kaitlin Sowinski committed her second foul 5:31 later.
"Every time I looked at their stats, I got sick to my stomach," Pioneers coach Ed Swanson said. "We had to pick our poison. ... I thought we battled inside, but size-wise, we just couldn't get it done."
Langhorne said the coaching staff had spent most of last week's practices emphasizing the height disparity between the two teams.
"We had a size advantage over Sacred Heart, and our coaches really wanted us to get the ball inside," she said. "Our guards were doing a good job of getting us the ball, and we were just getting the ball in the right places and taking advantage of it."
It also helps when the opponent's best player slogs through an off-day. Sacred Heart junior guard and NEC Player of the Year Amanda Pape scored a team-high 16 points, but she missed 11 of her 16 shots from the field and wasn't a factor when the game got out of hand.
Frese alternated Doron, Newman and freshmen Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver in shadowing Pape on the floor and challenging every shot.
"We knew she was their best player going in, and we didn't want her to get hot," Doron said. "We knew she was going to score because she's a really good player, but we wanted to make sure that we were contesting her and not giving her any easy buckets to get her confidence up."
Pape scored four of the Pioneers' first seven points, but the Terps scored 13 over the same span.
After the Terps scored the next three and Nicole Rubino's back-to-back three-pointers fueled an 8-2 Sacred Heart run to trim the deficit to three, Frese called a 30-second timeout with 14:32 left.
Then Maryland went on an 18-3 burst that consumed 8:49. During that time, the Pioneers shot one of 14 from the field, missing eight layups, and committed five turnovers.
Sacred Heart, which eventually trailed by as many as 22 points, cut the deficit to 47-33 at halftime. The Terps opened the second half with a 26-7 run over 8:05 that effectively put the game out of reach.
The Pioneers ended the season with a school-record number of wins, but became the 13th team from the NEC to lose in the first round of the tournament.
"It was definitely tough because this is a different caliber of team," junior guard Kerri Burke said of Maryland. "We went out there and played hard the whole game, but it was just a totally different style of play."