Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese was evaluating sophomore guard Laurin Mincy the other day when she referred to the Terrapins' game against Florida State last year. The 72-66 loss wound up being Maryland's sixth to last game during a season that ended well short of aspirations, and Mincy's contribution was going 0-for-1 in one minute.
In the rematch Monday, Mincy produced a game-high 23 points in 35 minutes, and the Terrapins left Tallahassee with a 91-70 Atlantic Coast Conference-opening victory that underscored how far one of Frese's prized recruits has progressed from a knee injury and her value to a team with designs on the Final Four.
It was the second straight game in which Mincy led the fifth-ranked Terrapins in scoring. She has 48 points over two games, the most for a Maryland player in consecutive games this season, and her timely 3-point shooting has been vital to a 14-0 start that's the Terrapins' best since 2006-07, when they began 18-0.
"When we recruited Laurin, we felt and knew she could play at this level," Frese said of the team's second-leading scorer (14.6 points per game). "She's really shooting it well. Very confident on the offensive end and really our best lockdown defender. Some of the things she's doing for us defensively right now are pretty special. You're really seeing her full game come together."
Not long ago, the 6-foot Mincy wasn't sure whether she would reach this point after a decorated high school career. During the summer between her junior and senior year, Mincy tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her left knee, derailing her final season at University High School in Newark, N.J.
When she arrived in College Park, Mincy was not only nursing effects from surgery but doing so while assimilating to the rugged ACC. Then as Maryland's season drew to a close, Mincy finally began thinking about shot-making rather than the stability of her knee.
In the Terrapins' final home game of the regular season, Mincy scored 12 points in a 61-48 win against Virginia Tech. All her points came from beyond the 3-point line, where she shot 50 percent. Mincy also scored 12 points in the Terrapins' 79-57 loss to Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Comcast Center.
"Coming into college is a big transition, and then on top of that you have an injury, and then your confidence is down," Mincy said. "You're trying to get used to schoolwork and everything. It's just a lot to learn. The injury definitely set me back further. I think being that I'm healthy now has definitely played a big part in my confidence."
Her teammates have noticed too, especially senior point guard Anjalé Barrett. As the player with the ball in her hands most often, Barrett frequently has distributed to Mincy, compelling opponents to decide whether to guard her or leading scorer Alyssa Thomas (16.4 ppg).
Mincy's emergence has taken much of the offensive burden from Thomas, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year on whom Maryland leaned routinely for scoring last season. Thomas and Mincy have each led the Terrapins in scoring five times this season.
Mincy is "able to get other people shots as well as draw attention from the defense to get her own shot," Barrett said. "That gives us a big boost because now [opponents] have to play everybody, not just focus on AT. Everybody has to be accounted for."
Note: Tonight's ACC home opener against Georgia Tech (11-3, 2-0 ACC) is also Leukemia Awareness Night. Frese's son Tyler Thomas was diagnosed with the disease several years ago during a routine checkup, prompting four former Maryland players to start the Team Tyler Foundation. The foundation's mission is to raise awareness and assist others, especially young people, dealing with leukemia. Thomas'cancer is in remission, but he still undergoes treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital once a month.