Steamrolling into ACC play on a six-game winning streak, the ninth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team's starting lineup has grown daily, integrating two freshmen into the mix alongside a trio of seasoned veterans ever since Laurin Mincy tore her right ACL on Nov. 28 at Nebraska.
The new unit, which slotted in first-years Chloe Pavlech and Tierney Pfirman alongside Alicia DeVaughn, Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkin, faced a near-impossible task in its debut together against second-ranked Connecticut. Ever since, the Terrapins have cruised.
Thomas had a game-high 22 points and Hawkins earned Terrapin Classic MVP honors with 36 points in two games as Maryland bounced Hartford 72-40 Saturday afternoon at Comcast Center. The Terps won their two weekend games by a combined 72 points and enter a crucial ACC matchup next Thursday against 16th-ranked North Carolina on a six-game winning streak since falling to the Huskies on Dec. 3.
"Like I told them, I'm excited to win our first championship, to be able to get ready now for conference play after closing the chapter of our non-conference and getting better with the adversity we faced," Coach Brenda Frese said.
Thomas made 7 of 14 field goals and 8 of 10 free throws, to go along with 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double this season and fifth in the past six games. DeVaughn chipped in 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Pfirman added 11 points and eight rebounds. Pavlech, despite shooting 1 for 5 from the field, had six assists against one turnover, her highest assist-to-turnover ratio in any game this season as Maryland's point guard.
No Hartford player scored double figures in the second-ever meeting between the two schools, getting out-rebounded 50-28 and shooting just 27.1 percent from the field.
"Dominating performance today," Frese said. "From start to finish, I thought we came out with great defensive intensity, which really led to a lot of unselfish play on the offensive end. Just the way we shared the basketball, the way we dominated the glass, we were really able to mix it up defensively."
Maryland opened up a 17-point lead by halftime, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. After Alicia DeVaughn snatched a defense rebound and drained a 3-pointer on the other end for the game's first points, the Terrapins never trailed.
After Hartford pulled within 9-7, the Terps went on a 21-6 run spanning eight minutes. Maryland scored 38 points in the paint and 20 off second-chance efforts, controlling the paint with 14 offensive rebounds and 24 free-throw attempts.
"When we're in that flow, we don't really worry about making mistakes," Thomas said. "We're just having fun, playing for each other."
With a stable lineup over the past seven games, Frese has solidified the continuity and consistency within her eight-player rotation. Though she didn't rule out fluctuation based on matchups, Frese remains pleased with how quickly Maryland's lineup opens games.
"You're starting to really see that they know where each other is on the floor," Frese said. "I think obviously, when you have two freshmen on the floor, that takes time to develop, and especially a freshman point guard. But I really feel like Chloe has gotten stronger with every game, in terms of her confidence.
"I feel like these three vets here have done a nice job adding our three freshmen and getting them to feel comfortable and confident. That's what we have to have. We can't have one player who's not comfortable and confident on the floor."
Brown 57, UMES 46: Karona Roach had 13 points, but the Hawks (4-8) fell to the Bears (4-6) in the consolation game of the Terrapin Classic.
Sheila Dixon had a game-high 20 points for Brown.
St. Joseph's 79, UMBC 38: All-Tournament Team selection Brittany Crowell scored seven points, but the Retrievers (4-9) fell to the host Hawks (8-4) in the championship game of the Hawk Classic.
The Hawks led all the way in their third straight win.
Queen's College 72, Bowie State 71, 2OT: Bria Robinson and Brooke Miles combined for 29 points, but the host Knights' Bria Jackson's 49 points keyed a come-from-behind, double-overtime victory. The Bulldogs fell to 3-5.
Hood 71, Waynesburg 64: Shakara Head (Joppatowne) scored a career-high 26 points in 31 minutes to lead the host Blazers (4-6) past the Yellow Jackets (3-8).
Wisconsin-Eau-Claire 72, Frostburg State 43: The Bobcats (4-8) fell behind in the first half and couldn't recover on the second day of the Smokey Ballenger Classic at Otterbein College.
The Bobcats (4-8) made just seven first-half baskets and found themselves down 42-21 at intermission.