And the 4th-seeded Terps did not disappoint, immediately releasing all of their pent up energy and enthusiasm in the form of a 23-2 run in the first 10 minutes of the game, and finished by soundly defeating the 13th-seeded St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash 70-48.
The Terps established a tone of dominance and confidence from the tip, holding the Red Flash scoreless in the first 4 minutes of play during a 13-0 run and earning a powerful 40-17 advantage at halftime.
I felt like it was important to go into halftime and know that [St. Francis was] going back to their locker room without any kind of confidence or any kind of hope of being in this game, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese asserted.
The Terps severely limited the Red Flash's shot selection, exerting persistent and smothering pressure along the perimeter to prevent them from initiating their offensive sets and forcing them into multiple shot clock violations.
Ball pressure has been a big focus for us lately, said junior Anjale Barrett. I think we started off really well with that and being able to sustain that the whole game was really key.
As a result of such exhaustive pressure, the Red Flash went 0-7 from the floor and were attempting several forced shots before a jumper by senior Samantha Leach put St. Francis on the scoreboard with 15:08 remaining in the first half. Leach, who leads the Northeast Conference in scoring with 17.6 points per game, would not be able to do much damage against the Terps, however, as she was held to just 9 points on 2-10 shooting.
The Red Flash, usually exceedingly reliant on 3-point production, shot just 26.7% from beyond the arc. Their scoring deficiency was further compounded by struggles in the paint, as the taller and stronger Terps commanded a powerful presence in the interior as well.
The Terrapin frontcourt was advantageously positioned on nearly every possession, ripping down rebounds with formidable prowess. Led by sophomore Tianna Hawkins with 10 boards and junior Lynetta Kizer with 9, the Terps outrebounded their opponent for the 27th time this season, grabbing 49 rebounds to St. Francis' 32. The Terps converted these rebounds to 20 second chance points and outscored the Red Flash in the paint 32-16.
ACC Rookie of the Year Alyssa Thomas once again displayed boundless energy, impressive athleticism, and valuable court vision, disrupting multiple passes by the Red Flash and effortlessly racing down the court for several fast break layups, leading all scorers with 16 points.
Sophomore Diandra Tchatchouang and Barrett also scored in double figures for the Terps with 11 points apiece. Barrett also diversified the Terps' offense by knocking down three 3-pointers and while shooting 4-6 from the floor.
At last, some of head coach Brenda Frese's questions about how her young team would fare in the NCAA Tournament environment have been answered.
Obviously your concern with a young team, when you only have three returning players, is how are they going to handle the NCAA Tournament, Frese reflected. I thought they responded really well, like the winners that they are, and came out and played with a lot of confidence and that's what we wanted to see.
The Terps will now advance to play 5th-seeded Georgetown on Tuesday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Comcast Center.