On Sunday, January 30, the No. 14/13 Maryland Terrapins (18-3, 4-2 ACC) earned their largest margin of victory for the regular season in a dominant 84-38 win over the Longwood Lancers (4-15).
The Terps controlled the game from the opening tip, holding the Lancers scoreless for the first four and a half minutes as they went on a 15-0 run.
The Lancers did not reach double figure scoring until fifteen minutes had elapsed and were limited to just 14 points at halftime.
While it became clear early on that the Terps would emerge from the contest victorious, they proved unwilling to relinquish the sense of momentum gained from four-straight conference victories, continuing to execute an unyielding press as well as fighting for every possession.
"The coaches tell us it's not about who we play but how we play," said junior Lynetta Kizer. "And I think that's something we wanted to do today, just really focus on playing Maryland basketball."
The defensively-minded Terps generated a season-high 18 steals and earned 36 points from Longwood's season-high 31 turnovers.
The commitment to defensive hustle resonated with every member of the Terrapin squad, as the guards and post players seemed especially united in conducting their traps and communicating in their zone defense to close out on shooters and prevent penetration.
Point guards Natasha Cloud and Dara Taylor each proved disciplined while at the top of the key, pressuring opposing point guards and creating opportunities for their teammates, namely freshman Alyssa Thomas and sophomore Tianna Hawkins, to step in once the panicked opposition forced a vulnerable pass.
Cloud and Taylor also helped to fuel the Terps' transition game, running a stolen ball down the court at every available opportunity.
Cloud led the team with a career-high 5 steals, while Thomas and Hawkins each grabbed 3.
"Natasha brings great energy and intensity," said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. "And obviously to see Tianna and Alyssa and how they're reading the passing lanes, I think that was a credit to the pressing and the style of play that we were able to play today, and them just doing a great job anticipating."
Cloud's energy transferred to the offensive end as well, as all of her 6 points resulted from drawing fouls on high-speed drives to the basket and subsequently making free throws.
As a team, the Terps continued to see success from the free throw line, shooting 92.0% (23-25) from the line in the first half and 81.4% (35-43) for the night.
In the interior, the Maryland post players proved equally disciplined and effective in trapping along the baseline, executing help-side defense, and remaining strong against the Lancers' post players, holding them to just 8 points in the paint while the Terps gained 40. The Terps also outrebounded the Lancers 50-26.
Freshman Alicia DeVaughn led all scorers with a career-high 16 points and a game-high 9 rebounds while Kizer noticeably influenced the team's mindset.
Kizer could be heard reminding her teammates at the start of the second half to maintain their level of intensity, and led by example as she executed two strong post moves in consecutive possessions to claim the Terps' first 4 points of the second half.
Just over a minute later, Kizer intercepted a pass at the top of the key and sprinted down the court for a fast break layup, clearly setting the tone for her team.
"I thought it started with Lynetta, her approach to the game, just her vocalness and her energy," said Frese.
Kizer served as the team's second-leading scorer with 15 points, and shot a perfect 5-5 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line.
Frese was pleased with yet another opportunity to maintain a constant rotation of players, and the Maryland bench combined for 41 points.
"I just thought it's nice to have games where every single player on our team can contribute," said Frese. "And tonight that's what it was about."
Looking ahead to the remaining regular season schedule in which half (4 out of 8) of the Terps' opponents are nationally ranked, Frese is confident in her team's progression and readiness.
"I'm really excited about it, because I really feel like we're playing some of our best basketball," said Frese. " I really feel like we're coming into form and peaking at the right time, and I'm excited for this team with what lies ahead."
Most immediately the Terps will travel to No. 25 Georgia Tech on Thursday, February 3. The Terps and Yellow Jackets will tip off at 7:00 p.m.