Maryland women hope to get rid of 'rust' in NCAA tournament vs. No. 7 seed Washington

Maryland coach Brenda Frese talks about the Maryland women's 74-58 win over Iona and advancing to the NCAA second round. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)

The last time the Maryland women's basketball team escaped with a win after an uncharacteristically sloppy performance was Feb. 25, against Wisconsin.

Two days later, the Terps rebounded with perhaps their best performance of the season, a 110-77 pummeling of Minnesota and its sensational scorer, Rachel Banham.


Coach Brenda Frese has come to expect such resilience from her team, which she calls the most businesslike of her 14 at Maryland. It's why she sounded undeterred after second-seeded Maryland's 74-58 win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Terps (31-3) blundered their way to 19 turnovers, and several key players, including All-Big Ten Conference center Brionna Jones (Aberdeen), were hampered by foul trouble. The No. 15 seed Gaels climbed within seven points in the fourth quarter before Maryland pulled away.

"If you've seen us all year, there was rust on our offense," a disappointed Frese said. "I expect that we'll be able to clean that up and get back into a rhythm."

The Terps know they'll need to be sharper Monday night, when they host No. 7 seed Washington, which beat No. 10 seed Pennsylvania, 65-53, in the first round at Xfinity Center. The Huskies (23-10) feature one of the nation's top scorers in Kelsey Plum, and their center, Chantel Osahor, is the rare opponent capable of matching Jones' strength in the paint.

Asked about defending Plum, Frese said: "She's the third-leading scorer in the country for a reason. I think it helps that we have been able to go up against great talent in our conference, but she makes them go. She's really talented, she's going to score points, and we just have to make her take difficult shots."

On paper, Washington can't match Maryland's depth or scoring punch, but Huskies coach Mike Neighbors said his team will be happy to run with the Terps. Washington played three games in three days in the Pac-12 tournament and nearly toppled Oregon State — like Maryland, a No. 2 NCAA seed — in the conference final.

"If you give this team a day's rest, they'll be ready to go," Neighbors said. "Maryland will certainly run with us and will probably test us in that area. I've been watching them throughout the year. Our styles are very similar."

Washington players did not sound intimated by having to face Maryland on its home court.

"Our conference had the No. 1 RPI, so we've played against amazing teams already," Huskies guard Alexus Atchley said. "Obviously, we have amazing respect for Maryland and we know that we're going to get their best shot, but we want to make sure they get ours as well."

Maryland players said their "best shot" will include cleaner ball-handling and a commitment to avoiding the lapses that allowed Iona back in the game Saturday.

"Just playing extremely hard every possession for 40 minutes," senior center Malina Howard said.

"I think we need to make smarter decisions," added senior guard Chloe Pavlech. " It seems like every game in the first half, we have a lot of turnovers, and then when Coach B talks to us about it at halftime, we tend to clean it up in the second half. I don't think other teams are really making us turn the ball over, it's more on ourselves."

The Terps likely also will need a more productive outing from Jones, who wasn't much of a factor in the second half against Iona because of foul trouble.

"I expect a bigger presence from her on Monday," Frese said.


Maryland is at its best when Jones and leading scorer Shatori Walker-Kimbrough play off each other as one of the nation's best inside-outside duos. Neither star played her best game in the first round.

One thing the experienced Terps have learned through two consecutive Final Four runs and two straight Big Ten Conference championships is that they can win when they're not playing their best.

They're battle-tested in a way that Washington — which on Saturday won its first NCAA tournament game since 2006 — is not. All the same, the Terps would rather win pretty as they seek the program's fifth straight trip to the Sweet 16.


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