The Maryland women’s basketball team had just scored 88 points, and all the Terps wanted to talk about was their defense.
For good reason. Because if No. 9 Maryland wants to be playing deep into March, the focus must be more on preventing baskets than making them.
Taking charge at the outset by repeatedly forcing neighboring rival George Washington into turnovers and missed shots, the Terps cruised to an 88-54 victory Wednesday night.
“I liked how we set the tone early, especially with our defense,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “We forced about 10 turnovers in that first quarter and were really locked in.”
Maryland (4-1) wasted no time in getting the jump on the youthful Colonials, taking the lead for good five seconds after the opening tip on a jumper by Taylor Mikesell. GW committed five turnovers in the opening 3½ minutes while falling behind 11-2.
Frese waited nearly 5½ minutes before making her first substitution.
“They were really connected,” Frese said. “You could see it on the defensive end, their energy and communication. So if it's not broke, there's nothing to fix. Just a phenomenal job of setting the tone early.”
GW had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, made only two baskets and trailed 23-7 after the opening 10 minutes.
“We've spent a lot of time talking about what our identity is going to be,” Frese said.
The answer, for now, is a team that relies first on its play on the defensive end of the court.
“In the first quarter you saw us get a lot of points off steals and in transition,” Mikesell said. “Defense is definitely going to set the tone for us going forward.”
Mikesell scored 19 points and Shakira Austin had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Terps, who have won three straight since falling at home to South Carolina, now the fifth-ranked team in the nation.
Mikesell, a sophomore guard, went scoreless against the Gamecocks but has totaled 52 points during the Terrapins' three-game streak.
“Just playing the game how it’s supposed to be played and then focusing on both ends of the court,” said Mikesell, who went 7-for-11 from the field and sank five 3-pointers.
Maryland senior Stephanie Jones (Aberdeen) scored 12 points and now stands just seven short of being the 24th Maryland player to reach the 1,000-point mark.
The 6-foot-2 forward was honored before the game for collecting her 500th rebound in the season opener.
With a starting lineup that includes two freshmen and a pair of sophomores, the rebuilding Colonials (2-3) were ill-equipped to handle an experienced Maryland team that returned all five starters from a squad that went 29-5 last season.
“We talked about having a handicap when you come in here because of their ranking and their size and they're playing at home,” GW coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It can imposing and difficult for us to simulate in practice.”
Following their miserable start, the Colonials used two straight 3-pointers by Tori Hyduke get to 33-21. Maryland answered with an 11-0 run that featured 3-pointers by Mikesell and Faith Masonius, along with a three-point play by Ashley Owusu.
The Terps led 46-24 at halftime and owned a 29-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Hyduke played 34 minutes and led GW with 12 points, all of them on shots from beyond the arc.
Mount St. Mary’s 71, UMBC 61: Michaela Harrison had 18 points and the host Mountaineers (2-3) outscored the Retrievers (2-3) 20-12 in the fourth quarter to win. Te’yJah Oliver scored a game-high 27 points for UMBC.
Howard 75, Loyola Maryland 69: The Bison (3-2) went on a 28-20 run in the fourth quarter to beat the host Greyhounds (1-3). Delaney Connolly had 15 points for Loyola.
Mary Washington 70, Johns Hopkins 51: The host Eagles (4-1) used a 13-5 run in the second quarter to pull away from the Blue Jays (2-2). Erin Walsh had 13 points for Hopkins. The loss was the second straight for the Blue Jays.
Gettysburg 66, McDaniel 57: Liv Storer had 12 points, but the host Green Terror (2-1, 0-1 Centennial Conference) fell to the Bullets (3-1, 1-0). Gettysburg finished on a 16-6 run in the fourth quarter.
Marymount 61, Salisbury 48: The visiting Saints (4-0) opened with a 19-8 run and beat the Sea Gulls (2-4). Kaylee Otlowski had 16 points for Salisbury.
Shepherd 71, Frostburg State 66: Amanda Emory (Seton Keough) and Victoria Diggs (Oakland Mills) each scored 13 points, but the visiting Bobcats (0-3) fell to the Rams (4-0). Shepherd built a 35-28 lead in the first half.
UAB 58, Mount St. Mary’s 51: The visiting Mountaineers (1-4), led by Jalen Gibbs with 15 points and Nana Opoku with 14 points, kept the game close, but fell to the Blazers (3-1). The Mount tied the game at 51 with 3:13 left to play, but the rally stalled.
Johns Hopkins 84, Neumann 59: Conner Delaney scored a game-high 20 points to lead the visiting Blue Jays (3-0) over the Knights (2-2). Hopkins outscored Neumann 48-28 in the second half.
Marymount 73, Salisbury 68: The visiting Saints (3-1) outscored the Sea Gulls (2-3) 40-29 in the first half. Devin Garrett scored 19 points for Salisbury.