The Terps opened up the game with eight straight points, six of which Alyssa Thomas scored in the first minute and a half alone. Loyola did not want to let the game slip away early, and came back with seven points of their own, capped by a three-pointer by Candice Walker.
After a timeout, Maryland re-grouped and Laurin Mincy made a baseline jumper and two free throws. A couple fast-break lay-ups and a three-pointer by Brene Moseley saw the Terps up 19-7 eight minutes in. Head Coach Brenda Frese credited the team's fast start to Thomas.
Alyssa set the tone from the tip, and that's what you expect your leader, your best player to come out with, Frese said. I thought we absolutely rode Alyssa the first half until everyone got settled down.
The next several minutes saw the teams trading baskets, as Maryland's offense stalled a little with Thomas on the bench. Loyola cut the deficit to 26-15 after Nneka Offodile made a lay-up with 6:30 left, but the Terps answered with some strong drives to the hoop by Moseley to go up by eighteen with three minutes left to play.
The Greyhounds proved they would not go away easily by staging a run of their own, and Maryland found itself facing a Loyola press for the first time. Kara Marshall brought the Greyhounds to within 11 when she converted a lay-up after a turnover by Anjale Barrett.
However, Maryland closed out the last 40 seconds of the half with two free throws by Thomas and a driving lay-up by Barrett to go into the break up 40-25.
Thomas had 14 points for the Terps in the first half, while Moseley added 9.
Despite their size advantage, the Terrapins were not able to out-rebound the Greyhounds in the first stanza. Each team had 15 apiece, and Maryland only had 4 offensive rebounds.
The second half started just as the first did - with an 8-0 Maryland run. Loyola did not score until nearly four minutes into the half, when Offodile made a baseline jumper. But after a Mincy lay-up, a three-point play by Barrett, and a conversion off a steal by Thomas were all matched by the Greyhounds, the Terps were finally able to break the game open.
Kim Rodgers hit a three to put Maryland up 60-34, sparking a steady stream of Terrapin offense highlighted by 7 points by Moseley in the final ten minutes. The Terps slowly pulled away even further from the Greyhounds to an eventual 84-46 victory.
Frese was happy with her teams' effort; though she would have liked to see the team come out stronger from the start.
I thought overall, first game, very pleased. I think it took us a while in the first half to kind of get in rhythm and get in sync against a very good Loyola team, she said. [In the second half] our intensity was there. It started with our defense, which led to our offense, and I thought we were able to see a lot of great things, specifically in the second half with this team.
Thomas lit up the stat sheet in just 23 minutes of play, scoring a game-high 20 points and also finishing with 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists.
Moseley, in her first career game, scored 17 on 5-of-6 shooting, which earned a lot of praise from Frese.
Brene was coming off an ACL [injury], missed her senior season, said Frese. To be able to come in and have this kind of performance tonight speaks volumes in terms of just how she's prepared herself to come back for this moment.
It was my first time getting back on the court and everything so it was fun, said Moseley. The energy this team brings makes it that much easier to get up and down the court.
Mincy also finished in double figures with 11 points, while Whitney Bays led the team in rebounds with 8.
The second half was better for Maryland on the boards, as they out-rebounded Loyola 24-13.
I think, first and foremost, it was nice to be able to see us get on the glass. That's been our forte so I thought we were extremely aggressive, said Frese.
Despite the big win, Frese still seems plenty of room for improvement.
I'd like to be able to see even more balanced scoring across the board in terms of our team and the depth that we have, she said. Obviously I think our assist-to-turnover ratio (the team had 17 assists and 16 turnovers) can improve, in terms of being able to get some easier looks for one another.
Maryland will look to make those improvements as they face a huge test Sunday, hosting No. 11 Georgetown - the team that knocked them out of last season's NCAA Tournament. After tonight's game Frese said that senior Lynetta Kizer's suspension for a violation of a team rule is still indefinite, so it is unknown whether Kizer will be available for the 2 p.m. game on Sunday.