By: Brittney Bridges
Maryland women’s basketball started off their season with an exhibition game, hosting the Kutztown Golden Bears. Despite the matchup not being one to die for, fans were excited to see the women’s team return to the court after falling short last year. With a 90-63 win over Kutztown, Maryland the 2018 season in an ideal way.
Perhaps one of the main highlights of the afternoon game was seeing junior guard Blair Watson return to the lineup after suffering an ACL tear in January 2017. She was averaging 13.8 points before her season got cut short. Watson received a standing ovation when she checked in late in the first quarter. Though the New Jersey native guard did not start, it is expected that she will once the regular season truly begins.
The starting lineup for Maryland is one aspect that could easily be adjusted throughout the season. With the graduation of Kristen Confroy and Eleanna Christinaki, there are two positions to be filled. The 2018 team is deeper than that of last year, especially with injuries not being as prevalent and incoming freshman playing a big role.
Veteran player Kaila Charles, a junior from Glendale, Maryland, returned and is the unsung leader of this Maryland team along with senior forward Brianna Fraser. Both Charles and Fraser started against Kutztown and finished with 14 and seven points respectively. Two other familiar faces were in the starting lineup in center Stephanie Jones and guard Channise Lewis. Both saw more than enough time last season, but presumably will have bigger, more important roles this upcoming season.
Though those returning players are all pivotal to the team, the freshmen stood out most in the exhibition. The last starter was Taylor Mikesell, the Ohio native, who acted more as the two guard, moving Charles to serve as another wing player. Mikesell finished with an impressive 16 points, the Terrapins’ second highest scorer in the game behind Jones who scored 18. Mikesell also showed her range by shooting 67 percent from the three-point line.
Another standout was the 6-foot-5 forward Shakira Austin who added 15 points for the Terps. The freshman from Fredericksburg, Virginia, also had 11 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field, turning in a great debut. Austin was ranked No. 4 in the nation for the 2018 class and made it known. She dominated the paint and Kutztown just couldn’t find a way to contain her. Austin looked to be a reliable second option to Stephanie Jones.
Though Maryland did cruise by Kutztown, there were some glimpses of struggles for the Terps. Turnovers, which frequently hurt the team last season, still proved to be a point of concern. Maryland turned the ball over nine times in the first half and finished with 14 in total. The Terrapins also struggled with finishing under the basket, as they missed a significant number of layups and/or jumpshots inside.
Overall, the exhibition offered positive signs and room for improvement. Maryland has one last showcase game this upcoming Friday at home when they take on Clarion at 6:00 p.m.