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State basketball roundup (Feb. 1): Focused Terps women avoid lull, rout Rutgers

The Maryland women's basketball team has turned a fair amount of its attention to the mental side of the game of late. With coach Brenda Frese wary of wearing down her slim roster in practice and the hardest mental slog of every college basketball season – the month of February – having arrived, the Terps' focus these days has been, well, focus.

Maryland players took extra pains leading up to Thursday's game against Rutgers to stick to their pregame routines and try to come out as strongly as they did in a blowout upset against then-No. 12 Ohio State on Jan. 22, and their effort paid off. The No. 11 Terps beat the Scarlet Knights handily Thursday night at Xfinity Center, 88-60, to win their fourth straight conference game.

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"I think my job is when I feel us kind of locking out of it to kind of tune us back in, but I thought we played hard tonight," Frese said after. "When you talk about the job we did defensively on [Rutger's leading scorer Tyler Scaife], she's really, really talented and I think we made it look easy. But I think collectively, as a team, I just see our team continuing to keep improving each and every practice and each and every game, and we have to continue to be able to have that."

"They're a team that lulls you to sleep then attacks," guard Kaila Charles said Wednesday before the game, but Maryland (19-3, 8-1 Big Ten) never gave Rutgers (17-7, 5-5) the chance. The Terps stayed alert on defense and pounced first, shooting 59.3 percent from the field to win the last game on their home court for the next two weeks.

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Maryland is barely in College Park during February – it plays three home games the entire month, two on weeknights and one on a Sunday afternoon – and Frese knows tests of her team's mental and physical fortitude lie ahead, on the road.

Carrying along momentum from wins like Thursday's can't hurt.

The Terps executed with precision from the start, surging to a quick lead in the first half behind 7-for-8 shooting at the beginning of the game as Rutgers' defense allowed Maryland to cherry-pick their shots. They led by 13 at the end of the first quarter and carried that sharp offense throughout the game.

They ended with 25 assists, with six apiece from point guard Channise Lewis and guard Eleanna Christinaki, on 32 field goals.

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"We had something like eight assists and one turnover in that first ten minutes, and that's who we need to be," Frese said. "I thought we got comfortable in the second quarter, we had seven turnovers in the second quarter that I was not pleased with because I think the first quarter is who we are."

On the defensive end, the Terrapins held steady against the undersized Scarlet Knights. Stephanie Jones (16 points, five rebounds) and Brianna Fraser (nine points, seven rebounds) did well to limit Rutgers in the paint and help keep them at 35 percent shooting from the field. Maryland won the rebound battle 46-26.

But it was Charles' performance as the primary defender on Tyler Scaife that stood out. Charles held the senior, who averages 20.3 points per game, to a season-low six points. It was just the second game this season Scaife hasn't scored in double figures.

The sophomore, meantime, led the Terps with 22 points. Christinaki backed her up with 20 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

"My teammates had my back. It wasn't just me guarding her, it was a collective effort like we kind of did with [Ohio State's] Kelsey Mitchell, so it was a team effort," Charles said.

Men

Towson 75, Delaware 71: Justin Gorham (Calvert Hall) scored a career-high 21 points and the visiting Tigers (16-8, 6-5 Colonial Athletic Association) made six free throws over the final 30 seconds to beat the Blue Hens (11-13, 4-7).

Mount St. Mary's 67, Robert Morris 42: Chris Wray had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Greg Alexander had 15 points to pace the visiting Mount (13-11, 7-4 Northeast Conference ) past the Colonials (13-11, 7-4).

Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.

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