COLLEGE PARK — Since Coach Brenda Frese arrived nine years ago, Maryland has become the area's pre-eminent women's basketball team. One NCAA title, three appearances in the round of eight and a 16-5 record in the tournament validate that.
Reminders of the 2006 national championship are ubiquitous at Comcast Center, from an oversized wall painting outside the team's locker room to the banner prominently displayed high above the stands. So are flags commemorating the school's many other titles and the luminaries who have played for one of the ACC's flagship programs.
Then here comes Georgetown, Maryland's opponent tonight in College Park, onto the court for practice shortly after a series of provocative remarks about the irrelevance of tradition. Reverence clearly is of little interest to the Hoyas, who have been deferring to their neighbor for far too long.
"I don't think we're very concerned in terms of the legacy of a team, what a team has done," said Hoyas senior guard Monica McNutt, who played high school basketball at Holy Cross and is supremely familiar with Maryland's history. "I'm a local girl, so I had the opportunity to watch those championship teams. Marissa Coleman is not there anymore. Things have changed. Not that they're not a very good team, but it's about the kids that are on the floor now."
It isn't just conceit on the part of Georgetown either. The fifth-seeded Hoyas (22-10) have the paperwork to support those claims after a second straight NCAA tournament appearance, a victory over Tennessee this season and, most convincing, a 53-45 win against Maryland in November.
Which, of course, rankles the No. 4 seed Terrapins (24-7) no end, though players and the coaching staff aren't letting on with television cameras rolling. They instead are minding their manners in public, issuing one endorsement after the other regarding the quality of Georgetown's program and disengaging from questions about women's basketball superiority.
Yet in the Maryland locker room taped onto framed photographs hanging from the wall are pages of daring quotes from Georgetown, underscoring that a rivalry is very much at hand despite limited history between the schools.
"It's on everyone's mind," junior point guard Anjalé Barrett said. "If you lose one, of course you want to get that team back."
Barrett was among the most accountable in the loss to Georgetown at McDonough Arena, turning over the ball six times with no assists. The Terrapins accumulated a season-high 29 turnovers in their first loss all-time to the Hoyas.
Georgetown's relentless press had a lot do with that. Because of their lack of size, the Hoyas regularly are outrebounded, but they mask that deficiency by defending full court and getting hands on loose balls.
Such was their blueprint for beating Princeton on Sunday in the first round. The Hoyas forced 15 turnovers in a 65-49 win against the Ivy League champions, and sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers did the rest with 26 points, including 16 in the first half. That total was more than the Tigers scored as a team by intermission, when Georgetown coasted to a 34-14 lead.
An All-Big East first-team selection, Rodgers has scored in double figures, including 21 against Maryland, in every game but two this season. Rodgers has 16 games with at least 20 points, and she scored a career-high 30 in a 65-60 win against then-No. 8 West Virginia on Jan. 25.
"It's definitely going to be a tough matchup," said Maryland junior guard Kim Rodgers (no relation), who went 1-for-10 from 3-point range against the Hoyas. "She's a really good player. We're really going to try to focus on being there on the catch and making sure she doesn't get any open looks."
An intriguing prospect would be calling on freshman guard-forward Alyssa Thomas for assistance. The ACC Rookie of the Year is the Terrapins' most athletic player and leader in steals, but shadowing Sugar Rodgers could deplete Thomas offensively. She leads Maryland in scoring (14.2 points per game) and minutes (26.8) but had just seven points in 17 minutes against the Hoyas.
Thomas also frequently sets up in the frontcourt, where Maryland has a considerable advantage. The Terrapins, who beat Saint Francis (Pa.), 70-48, in the first round, are fourth in the country in rebounding margin (plus-12.5) and have outrebounded all but four opponents. They outrebounded Georgetown 63-44 and had nearly twice as many offensive rebounds.