National title aspirations began today in College park, MD. The Maryland Terrapins, fresh off a final four appearance started their season with a non-conference exhibition against the Goldey-Beacom Lightning. Typically the first few games of the season in college basketball, mens or womens, aren’t extremely competitive outside of preseason tournaments.
The Terrapins let their Division II opponent see what a back-to-back Final Four team is capable of, along with their shiny new additions from their recruiting class. The Lady Terps were expected to win big and delivered, beating the Lightning 127-33. They used a very balanced scoring attack that was definitely on the up-tempo end as their defense gave them stops and multiple transition opportunities. Seven of the nine Terps finished in double-figures, displaying their strength in numbers. Freshman Kiah Gillespie led the way with a 22 point, 10 rebound, three assist, three block, and two steal effort. Yes. Freshman.
“Obviously a nice exhibition game for us to put on the uniform, kind of get rid of those nerves.” – Brenda Frese, UMD Head Coach
The first half wasn’t competitive for too long, the Terps had a huge size advantage on the visiting Lightning, whose tallest player was 5’10. So Maryland wasted little time exploiting that advantage by getting the ball into the post early and often. Brionna Jones made a living off the steady diet of post touches early in the game as she ended the first quarter with 10 points and the half with 14. Maryland’s defense was in a good place early on, holding Goldey-Beacom to just 20% shooting from the floor, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (14 points) was a pest on the wings and helped set the tone on that end of the floor.
Maryland had a 21-point lead heading into the second half and they didn’t get complacent, starting the third quarter with a 17-0 run. Their defense lapsed a little in the third quarter, but not by much as they still held the Lightning to nine points. The Terps started to run a bit more of their halfcourt sets in the quarter with Brene Moseley (17 points) in as the floor general.
Kiara Leslie (18 points) got going midway through the third and was already feeling it as the fourth and final period began. She was finding open spaces on the floor as the defense was conceerned about the Terps size and Mosley’s penetration. She also did a good job not forcing it, taking the shot when it was there, being aggressive or simply moving the ball as needed. Her performance was indicative of the team’s job on the day.
Goldey-Bacom has to be happy about the fact that they won’t see another team remotely as talented as Maryland for the remainder of their season. They were clearly overmatched, but credit should be given as they never put their heads down and played hard to the end. Sophomore Kristen Confroy (15 points) got into the act by hitting a few shots in the final quarter, she played a patient game and let the game come to her. The Terps continued to play good on-ball defense late in the game as they were still getting deflections and steals with two minutes or so left on the clock.
While it’s only an exhibition, it was a good showing for the Terps as they wasted no time putting away an inferior opponent. The Lightning were led by Quorea Pearyer with eight points. Maryland’s lasting impression of the game was a lock down defensive possession that resulted in an ill advised shot on a great contest from Brianna Fraser ( 14 points).
“I thought it was solid. It looks like where you’d be in November for a first exhibition game. Our ball pressure and some of that has to improve. People weren’t challenged that much off of the bounce. Seeing some takeovers from where we were in practice is a positive thing.” -Frese, UMD Head Coach
Maryland’s freshmen left a heck of an impression on those in attendance, exhibition or not, both Gillespie and Fraser looked comfortable. If Maryland wishes to get past that hurdle they’ve hit each of the past two years in the tournament, these two youngsters will play a role.
The Terps next game is Wednesday evening at the Xfinity Center as they take on Indiana University (Pa.) at 7 pm Eastern.