No. 18 UM women too big for La Salle in Terrapin Classic opener

83-45 win is 10th in a row for Terps, who face No. 17 St. John's in title game Wednesday

December 28, 2010|By The Washington Post

By Kathy Orton

With a starting five that boasts four players 6 feet 2 or taller, No. 18 Maryland has found success this season by exploiting its formidable frontcourt.

La Salle discovered just how forward thinking the Terrapins have become in Tuesday afternoon's opening game of the Terrapin Classic at Comcast Center. Maryland's frontcourt players scored the first 24 points and created all sorts of matchup problems for the Explorers in the Terps' 83-45 win.

Maryland (11-1) will go for its 11th consecutive victory on Wednesday when the Terps play No. 17 St. John's in the championship game. The Red Storm (12-1) defeated Liberty, 81-66, in Tuesday's second game. To allow Maryland fans the chance to attend the women's basketball game and watch the Terps football team play in the Military Bowl, the game time was changed to 11:30 a.m.

It is not just that Maryland fields one of the tallest teams in the country. Although the Terps' height is enviable — 10 of their 14 players stand at least 6 feet — it is the versatility of their frontcourt players that presents the biggest challenge to opponents.

Junior center Lynetta Kizer, who came up one rebound short of her fourth double double this season with 15 points and nine rebounds, made a 3-pointer. Sophomore forward Diandra Tchatchouang had five assists to go along with her 11 points. Freshman forward Alyssa Thomas (14 points) easily brought the ball up the court in transition.

"A lot of players are playing a lot of positions, so to see us coming together is pretty exciting," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "We can run a lot of different looks based on the game and what we feel is helping us."

Since switching to its bigger lineup three games ago, Maryland has been using its forwards and centers to its advantage. The most obvious is rebounding. The Terps have grabbed more rebounds than their opponents in every game this season and take great pride in leading Division I in rebounding margin (18.1). They outrebounded LaSalle, 51-36.

"That's just something that we want to focus on," Kizer said. "We know our length is going to give a lot of people problems."

La Salle (4-7), which has only two players on its roster taller than 6 feet, struggled against the imposing Terrapins. The Explorers tried unsuccessfully to shoot over Maryland, taking 13 of their first 20 shots from behind the arc. They made just 22 percent of their field goal attempts overall.

Kizer started Maryland off well by single-handedly outscoring La Salle. She had 10 points in the first eight minutes, while the Explorers managed only six. Kizer teamed with Tchatchouang, Thomas and Tianna Hawkins to produce the Terps' first 24 points.

"We try to play together and make each other better," Tchatchouang said, explaining why the forwards are so dominant on this team. "We know how to play with each other. We can find each other on the court better."

The Terps took control early, scoring on seven of their first nine possessions to build a 14-2 lead. La Salle turned over the ball three times and missed its first four shots before Ebonee Jones (Arundel) made a jump shot to score the Explorers' first points. Jones was the only player to make more than one field goal for La Salle in the first half. She finished with 18 points.

The blowout gave several Maryland players an opportunity to shine. No one played more than 22 minutes, and a total of 13 players saw action on the court. Junior center Yemi Oyefuwa played as many minutes as she had all season, scoring a career-high seven points in nine minutes.

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