At the start of the week, Maryland basketball had made school history with both the mens and womens programs ranked in the top five in the Associated Press Poll (AP 25). The men would lose to North Carolina on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, last night in college park it was the lady Terps who put their undefeated record on the line. It wasn’t a great night on the offensive end, but a stingy defensive effort carried Maryland past the 20th ranked Syracuse Orange. That stellar defense coupled with strong performances from Brionna Jones, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, and Tierny Pfirman was more than enough. Maryland remained undefeated, moving to 7-0 on the year after an 82-64 victory over the Orange.
Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman talked about the Orange game plan going into the game, the need to turn the game into a track meet as he didn’t feel his team could break down the Terps in a halfcourt setting. The Orange employed several different presses throughout the game while often settling into a 2-3 matchup zone if and when Maryland broke the press. Hillsman said it was “bittersweet” to come home and not win, but credited Coach Brenda Frese and the Terrapins for a “dominating” performance.
The Orange did force Maryland into turning the ball over 22 times while committing just nine of their own. Syracuse also had some success with pushing the pace, as they shot 15 more times than the Terps. Those numbers going in favor of the road team would usually mean that they went into a hostile environment and left with a win. For Syracuse, that just wasn’t the case.
While the Terps struggled with turnovers, they made up for it with good ball movement and a dominating effort on the glass. Maryland would hold a 55-31 edge over Syracuse on the boards. Many of the turnovers typically came from speeding themselves up versus the Orange speeding Maryland up. The Terps like to push the tempo, despite them having a bevy of bigs, they like to get out and run.
Still, their size is a great positive. Jones has been a workhorse for Maryland early this season, she was outstanding last night. She finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. The rebounding numbers don’t show the difference she made when defending the pick-and-roll. She did a great job hedging and getting a hand on the ball, disrupting the timing of the opposing ball handlers.
Cuse sharp shooter Brianna Butler found out just how tough the Terps defense can be. The long range specialist was routinely pressured from beyond the arc, the Maryland defenders did a good job making her fight for every bit of free space. Even though the Terps start three guards on the perimeter, both Kiara Leslie and SWK have good size and athleticism. They really did a number on Butler, the Orange couldn’t rely on anything on the offensive end. Most of their damage came in transition, whether it was off a Maryland miss or a steal and run out.
It was Maryland’s first time this season dealing with that type of press for an entire game, they did well. SWK wasn’t happy about one area of her performance as she turned the ball over eight times, but she showed that she’s a willing and capable passer. She’s been aggressive on the offensive end to start games for the Terps in nearly every contest this year, last night she used the attention that the Orange paid to her to open things up for her teammates. Her scoring ability is a big reason why the Orange couldn’t just sell out on double-teaming Jones in the post. The talented junior guard scored 19 points on just nine shot attempts, connecting on three of her four attempts from deep and all of her four visits to the charity stripe. Still, it was the rest of her game that left an impression with eight assists, six rebounds, and two blocks. There was one play in the first half that may become a staple of Maryland’s season. It was a side pick-and-roll run to perfection by Jones and Walker-Kimbrough. Syracuse was at their complete mercy, at first they didn’t want to leave Jones rolling to the basket. Then again, they couldn’t switch and leave a big on SWK either. It’s a conundrum that several teams may be presented with this season, will be faced with this season and there may be no real way to solve it.
Going into the season, Coach Frese talked about the depth she has with this roster. Syracuse found out about it last night first hand, the Terps just kept coming in waves. They got 25 points off the bench from Brene Mosley and Pfirman, they each caused trouble for the Orange in their own ways.
The senior floor general was in attack mode, with Syracuse’s Alexis Peterson being extremely quick, Moseley was charged with slowing her down. Brene did more than what was asked, as she played tough defense and then forced Peterson to defend her. (mention her drive in middle of zone, breaking it down with the dribble). Pfirman showed that her skill set will come in handy as Maryland faces teams that go to a zone defense. It’s one thing to have a big flash to the foul line against a 2-3 zone and be able to distribute the ball from the high post to open things up for teammates. It’s another entirely when the big is able to flash to the high post and then drill that foul line extended jump shot. Tierny did a great job of busting open that Orange zone. She finished with 13 points, but she also grabbed eight rebounds. Just another example of the type of weapons Frese has at her disposal, all of those options will be needed at different times this season.