COLLEGE PARK - If this were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it in the first round.
Playing at a high level of intensity from the opening whistle, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, No. 14 Maryland jumped out to a 20-0 lead en route to a 92-65 victory over Wake Forest last night before an announced 5,974 at Comcast Center in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools.
Senior Kristi Toliver had 22 points and five assists for the Terps (13-2, 1-0 league), while freshman Lynetta Kizer, in her ACC debut, showed why she was the preseason pick for conference Rookie of the Year, scoring 17 points on a variety of moves.
"For a lot of the players, this was their first ACC game," said Toliver, who was honored before tip-off for recently becoming the school's all-time assists leader. "The fact that we started off extremely focused and executed really well, I think we set the tone for this ACC run that we're about to have."
In a prelude to Monday's showdown at No. 5 Duke, Maryland showcased a well-balanced offensive attack that featured good ball movement both in transition and out of its half-court sets. Six players scored during the Terps' opening run.
It was Maryland's defense that stole the show, however, forcing the Demon Deacons (12-2, 0-1) into taking three-pointers on their first six shot attempts and holding their leading scorer, Alex Tchangoue, without a shot for more than eight minutes as the Terps built their 20-point cushion. Tchangoue finished with 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
"It's great to be able to see the statement that we made for our first ACC game," coach Brenda Frese said about her team's opening run. "That really got us clicking on all cylinders."
The defense was so impressive during that initial stretch that when the Deacons finally scored, there was an audible groan from the crowd, as if they had actually been hoping for a shutout.
"I thought it was tremendous team defense," Frese said. "We came out with great intensity."
At no point was that intensity more evident than midway through the first half, when, after Wake Forest made a free throw, Tolliver took the inbounds pass and raced up the court, blowing past three defenders before passing to Kizer for a layup. The Terps had 17 points off turnovers, took an 18-point lead into halftime and never looked back. They are, however, looking forward to Monday.
"We have a couple of practices [before] going into Duke," said senior Marissa Coleman, who had 10 points and was matched up with Tchangoue much of the night. "If we can get better in a couple of areas, I think we will be really successful come Monday night."