By: Cody Wilcox
During Maryland’s top-10 matchup against South Carolina, the Gamecocks came out of halftime and pressured the Terps with a full-court press. Maryland struggled with the pressure and committed seven turnovers in the third quarter, exceeding their first half total of six. Maryland ultimately held on due in large part to their 39-8 run in the first half, but in a tight game, South Carolina’s 11-2 start to the half could’ve had a larger impact.
A similar situation came against Georgia Tech on Nov. 29 during the ACC/Big Ten challenge in College Park. Maryland, holding a 38-18 lead at halftime, committed eight turnovers in the third quarter and scored nine points. Georgia Tech’s pressure was not only able to create turnovers in the backcourt, but it also sped up the Maryland offense and made it difficult for the Terps to score.
“We knew Georgia Tech was going to come out of the locker room– they are a second half team,” Frese said. “They obviously dictated the third quarter. But I’m proud of our poise and composure.”
Georgia Tech finished Thursday’s matchup with 17 points off of Maryland’s 20 turnovers, which is greater than their season turnover average of 16.7 per game.
“Obviously we’re not very good when we can’t get shots at the basket, and we are turning the ball over. Maybe some fatigue that played into that,” Frese said. “But credit them, I thought they were the more aggressive team.”
Turnovers are an area of the game that the Terps continue to have high numbers in through seven games this season. Besides their first game of the season against Coppin State, where the Terps had eight turnovers, Maryland has had double-digit turnovers in every game.
Despite Maryland’s turnover struggles early in the season, the Terps have still been able to put points on the board in a variety of ways and maintain a high defensive efficiency to remain undefeated on the season.
During the first seven games of the season, three home, two away and two neutral, Maryland’s offensive balance has clearly been on display this season with five different Terps leading the team in scoring in different games. Maryland has the ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc with players such as Taylor Mikesell and Blair Watson, throw it inside to their frontcourt consisting of Shakira Austin and Stephanie Jones, or give it to their 2018 All-Big Ten First Team guard Kaila Charles.
But when the Terps turn the ball over, it can be hard for the team to get into their offensive sets and get the ball to their playmakers.
“Sometimes we’re plagued with turnovers, and so then we can’t get good shots up,” Frese said Nov. 27. “So that’s an area, as we are continuing to grow as a team, that we’re continuing to focus on.”
One way Maryland has minimized the effect of their turnovers is by corralling offensive rebounds. The Terps are currently third in the Big Ten with an average of 16.1 offensive rebounds per game, which is a slight improvement from their 15.5 average from last year.
Maryland has two players, Austin and Jones, who are in the top six in offensive rebounds per game in the Big Ten. With Minnesota and Wisconsin as the only other teams to have more than one player in the Big Ten’s top-10, Maryland has an advantage on the offensive glass. Instead of throwing the ball out to reset the offense or facing a full-court press from their opponent, Maryland is able to benefit from a high-percentage shot often times after rebounding their own miss.
When the Terps don’t offensive rebound, they struggle. In their close win over Georgia in Puerto Rico, Aside from their game in Puerto Rico against Georgia, the Terps were outscored in second-chance points for the first time this season as the Bulldogs led 18-5 in that category.
Although the Terps have been scoring the ball at a rate of 74.6 points per game, their defensive efficiency is what stands out about the team. Maryland ranks first in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 49.6 points per game, and in blocks, with 6.9 blocks per game.
Austin has played a large part in the Terps’ defense as she averages 3.6 blocks per game, which leads the Big Ten.
Maryland’s defense was on full-display against the Yellow Jackets and junior guard Francesca Pan, who joined Georgia Tech’s record books with 1,000 career points in their previous game against Idaho State. The Terps held Pan to nine points as she went 3-14 from the field.
“I thought they did a great job at taking away—you know they were all over her. She couldn’t get a look at the basket,” Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said. “Hedging her ball screens—you know she’s really good off ball screens. They knew where she was at all times, and they did a really good job on her.”
Even though Maryland has excelled in multiple defensive categories and have controlled the boards in the majority of their games this season, the Terps will need to have a better hold on their turnovers as they continue their season.
After giving the ball away 20 times against Georgia Tech, Frese is still confident that her fairly-young team will get more comfortable as the season rolls on.
“It was a tremendous game. I thought we grew up tonight,” Frese said after the win.