However, quite to the contrary, the Terps have welcomed the two week break from competition - a length of time not usually afforded to them during the busy conference schedule - as a valuable opportunity to confront their weaknesses, grow their 'basketball IQ,' and invest in the journey ahead.
I think we've grown a lot since our last game [when] we took the loss against Georgia Tech, said junior Kim Rodgers, one of just three Terps with NCAA Tournament experience. I think having the last game you play before the first NCAA game being a loss is really going to motivate us to come out hard and to show people that we deserve to be here.
In the first days of practice after the ACC Tournament, head coach Brenda Frese fully addressed the vulnerabilities her team displayed against the Yellow Jackets, intently focusing on ways to learn from the experience. Frese has stressed the need for active involvement from players both on and off the floor, reminding the team that such attentiveness is needed in order to ensure seamless substitutions from the bench should the Terps encounter persistent foul trouble again. She has also emphasized composure under pressure and the ability to engineer press breaks, should the Terps face another relentless press.
Such constructive instruction has been well-received by the team, and has also been amplified, as the team has not only met her expectations but, as is often essential for growth, taken initiative to propose and implement their own improvements.
Often practice has ended with a scrimmage this past week, in which one team is leading by two to four points with two minutes or less remaining on the clock. Frequently without guidance from the coaching staff, each team must decide which plays to execute and how to use the time effectively.
I think that the coaches did a great job this week of letting us go out and scrimmage against each other, and see where we can make the decisions late in the games, said junior Lynetta Kizer, another Terp with NCAA Tournament experience.
Basically we simulated late game scenarios, added ACC Rookie of the Year Alyssa Thomas. Maybe where we don't have a timeout and we need to make an adjustment ourselves. Basically we are just preparing ourselves for anything that might come ahead.
After detailed strategic analysis with the coaching staff and later allowed the chance to 'think the game' for themselves and rely on one another in a game-like situation, the Terps are increasing their morale as well as readiness, and appear to be playing some of their best 'team basketball.'
As time went along in practice, each day other people stepped up and said something else that they probably wouldn't have said the day before, said Kizer. Everybody had a voice these past couple of weeks.
The 4th-seeded Terps (23-7) will test this diligent preparation when they take on the Northeast Conference champion and 13th-seeded St. Francis Red Flash (22-11) on Sunday, March 20 at 12:20 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.