The fifth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team has compiled victories with such ease this season that the opponent has seemed all but incidental. Sunday's 78-50 win against George Mason was another case in point, with the Terrapins using the game at Patriot Center to sharpen their matchup zone defense and give the reserves playing time before the extended holiday break.
Maryland got the usual production from starters Alyssa Thomas, Laurin Mincy and others, but coach Brenda Frese was able to substitute liberally from roughly midway through the first half of an 11th consecutive win to open the season. Eight Terrapins played at least 11 minutes, and the bench combined for 18 points, including 14 from senior center Lynetta Kizer, for Maryland's eighth win by at least 19points.
"What I really like about this team is we've continued to challenge them in different dimensions defensively and taking care of the basketball, and they've risen to the challenge," Frese said. "They've been really hungry in their work, and that's exciting."
Thomas had a game-high 18 points with seven rebounds and five assists, and Mincy added 15 points, six rebounds and two assists. Senior point guard Anjalé Barrett chipped in with 13 points, three assists and three steals, but Maryland's individual contributions paled in comparison to some overpowering team statistics.
For starters, the Terrapins outrebounded George Mason 59-33, had 44 inside points to 10 for the Patriots and held a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points. Maryland also limited George Mason (6-3) to 24 percent shooting thanks in large part to a zone defense that kept the Patriots without a field goal for seven minutes in the first half.
Maryland, meantime, used a 15-2 run to take a 19-10 lead with 12:50 left before the half. A 19-0 run shortly thereafter extended the margin to 40-13, and the Terrapins were on their way to extending their best start since 2006-07, when they began 18-0.
The Terrapins were particularly stingy defending George Mason's backcourt, which has been the Patriots' primary conduit for scoring this season. Senior guard Taleia Moton entered the game averaging nearly 23 points but finished with 16 on 6-for-17 shooting, and junior guard Amber Easter (six points) shot 2-for-10. Easter had been averaging 11points and 42 percent shooting from the field.
"Maryland is as good as advertised," George Mason coach Jeri Porter said.
About the only blemish for Maryland in this game was an uneven second half in which it committed 12 turnovers. The Terrapins' lead maxed out at 40 after halftime, but that wasn't until after George Mason got to 67-37 on a 3-pointer by Moton with 6:46 to play.
From that point, Maryland scored 10 in a row, including three consecutive baskets off the fast break. In their last game until the two-day Terrapin Classic on Dec. 28-29, the Terrapins finished with 14 fast-break points to eight for George Mason, which had just five players score overall.
"We're 11-0, so I think we're pretty happy, but there's always room for improvement," said Barrett, one of three seniors on a team that leads the nation in rebounding margin (plus-20.1) and field goal percentage (.514). "We've got a long stretch of practice, so we're just going to keep getting better everyday. We've got conference play coming up, and we've got two big games when we come back from break, so just keep getting better."
Percentages: FG .464, FT .857. 3-point goals: 2-9, .222 (Barrett 1-2, Mincy 1-4, Kizer 0-1, Moseley 0-2). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 5 (Hawkins 2, Thomas, Mincy, Barrett). Turnovers: 19 (Hawkins 4, Moseley 4, Barrett 3, Thomas 3, DeVaughn 2, Bays 2, Kizer). Steals: 12 (Barrett 3, Kizer 2, DeVaughn 2, Mincy 2, Thomas, Moseley, Hawkins). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .239, FT 1.000. 3-point goals: 6-17, .353 (Saunders 2-4, Easter 2-5, Pickard 1-2, Moton 1-4, Strickland 0-1, Weithman 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 2 (Strickland, Pickard). Turnovers: 16 (Easter 5, Saunders 5, McNair, Strickland, Tharrington, Moton, Pickard). Steals: 8 (Saunders 4, Tharrington, Strickland, Moton, Pickard). Technical fouls: None.
A—1,236. Officials—Norma Jones, Daryl Humphrey, Luis Gonzalez.