The 2016 Big Ten Champions received their rings before their season opener Sunday afternoon, the banner for said accomplishment was also revealed. Senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough saw only the “Second Round” part of the banner. The upperclassman has spoke about her feelings from the way last season ended several times to start this year. It’s clear that she’s focused on making the most of this season, her final in College Park.
Closing their two-game exhibition schedule last week, Ieshia small told us that the team’s defense needed some work going forward. It was clear that defense wouldn’t be an issue against UMass Lowell, the Terrapins were fully engaged on that end of the floor from the opening tip. The rotations were tighter, there was far more pressure on the ball handlers and it played a big role in their 100-44 win. A fitting performance for the reigning Big Ten Champions, a good way to start the regular season schedule.
To get an idea as to what extent Maryland was rolling, they had 21 points off of turnovers after the first quarter. They would then force a five second call on the inbound pass to start the second quarter. The Terps forced a couple of shot clock violations as well. Their ability to switch virtually everything really bothers teams, obviously the competition will stiffen, but it’s definitely an asset.
The first half also saw the first time that the Jones sisters were on the court in a Maryland uniform, Stephanie would score her first points in her collegiate career on and and-1 play. Leading Maryland at the half were SWK (10 points) and Kaila Charles (8 points). For the visitors, it was evenly distributed as no player on their team had more than three individually.
The second half was more of the same as Maryland went on to rout UMass Lowell. There were a few players that stood out for Maryland in this one, the first being Sophomore Kiah Gillespie. The Connecticut native had an up and down freshman campaign, but she seems far more comfortable both on the court in general and in her role. Gillespie is starting to show her many skills, the one that stood out in this game was her passing. She did a very good job of using her size and ball handling ability to make plays for others. Compiling a line of 7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and three steals. Her versatility and skill set allows her to be inserted at multiple positions across various lineups. She could be the difference between a Final Four run or a Championship for this Terps team.
Her partner in crime, Brianna Fraser got it going as well. Much has been said about the two standout Seniors and the extremely impressive freshman class, but the two sophomores are just as talented. At 6’3, she gives Maryland a different type of big than the Senior Brionna Jones. She can’t bang like Bri can, nor as she as strong. However, she finds a way to battle on the boards and has a bit of a face up game at her position. She’s popped on a couple of screen/roll situations and uses her agility well to evade defenders around the rim. She’s very offensive minded and like Kiah, she looks far more comfortable.
The third player that made an impression, Junior transfer Ieshia Small. She’s essentially become the backup point guard in stints when she’s not on the wing. Another very versatile piece of this Terps roster, Small is doing a solid job of initiating the offense and finding her teammates. She’s a very active defender and a devastating finisher in transition. She practiced with the team all last season, but couldn’t participate in games. She has looked very comfortable thus far, it’s evident she’ll play a very important role.
As the talent level increases in terms of their opponents going forward, but the reigning Big Ten Champs are certainly building winning habits early in the year.