COLLEGE PARK -- His 13th-seeded Army team led Maryland by three points midway through Sunday’s first half, but coach Dave Magarity was like a man anxiously awaiting a flood.
During a timeout, Magarity told his players to brace themselves for the deluge he feared was coming from the taller, stronger Terps, who seemed jittery at the outset of the NCAA tournament first-round game.
“They’re going to be upset,” the coach recalled telling the Black Knights.
Magarity’s instincts proved correct. Led by freshman guard Lexie Brown (21 points on 9-for-11 shooting), fourth-seeded Maryland went on a 29-2 run to close the first half and rolled to a 90-52 victory at Comcast Center.
“We knew what we were in for. We knew we had our hands full," said Magarity, who also said that he believes the Terps are one of the top five teams in the country. "If this team is a four-seed, I’m nuts."
Army guard Kelsey Minato, the Patriot League's leading scorer during the regular season, agreed with her coach: "It's like we woke up a beast."
Minato, who is 5 feet 8, scored 27 points but was challenged when she went into the lane.
"Their posts are really big," she said.
Maryland advanced to Tuesday night’s second-round game against No. 5 seed Texas, which defeated 12th-seeded Penn, 79-61, in Sunday’s second game.
With Maryland leading by 30 points, coach Brenda Frese was able to rest senior star Alyssa Thomas for the final 12 minutes of the game. As she headed to the bench, Thomas earned a pat on the backside from her coach and a loud ovation from many fans in the announced crowd of 5,733.
Thomas played long enough to score 13 points in the game, which helped her pass the career total of 2,269 of Juan Dixon, the Maryland men’s all-time scoring leader.
“I would never rub it into him. Juan’s a great player,” Thomas said with a shy smile when asked about surpassing Dixon, now a member of the men’s basketball staff.
Thomas also had 14 rebounds and helped settle down Maryland, which plays three freshmen in prominent roles.
Frese said: “She gave us a great calming presence in the timeout [with Army leading by three points] that we were fine and have great confidence to the entire team.”
The Terps outrebounded the Black Knights, 47-22.
“I can’t remember when we’ve been outrebounded that bad,” Magarity said. “A lot of their easy shots were on second shots. My starting front line had one field goal.”
A 3-pointer by Laurin Mincy put Maryland ahead for good, 20-18, with 7:52 left in the first half.
Maryland moved to 17-3 in NCAA tournament games in College Park and 11-3 in the opening round.
Maryland’s last NCAA tournament loss at Comcast Center came to Georgetown in the second round in 2011 -- a game that the five-member senior class remembers well.
Maryland's biggest issue seemed to be nerves. The Terps hope to make a deep tournament run in the final season for Thomas, one of the best players in their history.
Maryland is in the Lousville region that is topped by No. 1 seed Tennessee.
On Sunday, it was just a matter of “getting the jitters out,” Frese said.
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