Terps women dare not take Virginia Tech for granted

February 24, 2011|By The Washington Post

COLLEGE PARK — — With two games left, the 15th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team's only assurance beyond the regular season is that it will play at least once in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. There are no certainties otherwise, although an NCAA berth appears a formality considering the Terrapins' 21-6 record, including 7-5 in perhaps the most demanding conference in the country, and an RPI of 11.

Still, Maryland's resume could have been that much more substantial had the Terrapins been able to handle some of the most elementary requirements of the game, most notably foul shooting and turnovers. Both have hindered Maryland this season, with its most recent game, a 72-66 loss at No. 14 Florida State on Sunday, revealing as much.

The Terrapins shot 11 of 24 from the line and had 16 turnovers against the Seminoles. In this case, it wasn't as much about the number of turnovers as when they occurred, so with the ACC tournament one week away, Maryland's assignment before then is to correct those mental errors that can be especially damaging in March.

Maryland ranks eighth in the ACC in turnovers (19 per game) and in turnover margin (even). It's also tied for seventh in free-throw percentage (.651) and is last among ACC teams with at least 600 trips to the line. In its poorest showing from the foul line this season, Maryland shot 12-for-28 in a 78-69 loss to Boston College, which the Terrapins play on the road in the regular-season finale.

"Some of the basic things," coach Brenda Frese said. "It's kind of mind-boggling where we do the tougher things well — defense and rebounding — but the little things that can add up in a game are the things that we've still got to be more consistent in."

The ongoing process continues tonight against Virginia Tech in Maryland's final regular-season home game. The Hokies (11-16) are in last place in the ACC and have one conference win. Among their 11 conference losses, only three have come by fewer than double figures.

While the game has all the makings of a mismatch, Maryland's recent history indicates there are potential trappings as well. The Terrapins a week and a half ago opened without much urgency against Virginia and wound up losing to an inferior adversary, 60-57, at Comcast Center.

Maryland shot 14-for-20 from the free-throw line but committed 17 turnovers. A handful of those came down the stretch in a game that never should have been that close against an opponent with three conference victories at the time.

"We don't want what happened at the UVa. game to happen in this game," junior guard Kim Rodgers said. "At this point, the ACC is a great conference. You've got to be aware of every team. Everybody is good competition, so we have to make sure we take them seriously."

Maryland, meantime, also is paying much attention to the conference standings and other conference games as it chases fourth place in the ACC. Such a finish would give the Terrapins a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, meaning they would play a maximum of three games in as many days.

Duke, Miami and Florida State are tied for first in the ACC at 10-2, and while Maryland trails North Carolina and Georgia Tech by one game, victories over those schools this season have the Terrapins in reasonably good standing considering their recent stretch of three losses in four games.

"I think with the matchups that are still in place, I've said this all along, you control your own destiny," Frese said. "That's all we're focused on is Virginia Tech, and then we'll move on to BC, and I think the league like it's shown through conference play, you're not going to know until that last day really where your positioning is going to be."

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