Maryland Freshmen Dispense of Stage Fright In Second Tuneup
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- When Gallaudet stopped by here at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center Tuesday night for an exhibition game won by the Terrapins 90-37 visiting coach Kevin Cook waxed nostalgic afterwards about the days he would lead a group of barnstormers that included some WNBA players and WNBA wannabes with little practice time to prepare against some of the top Division I collegiate teams in the nation.
"You know one year we beat a UConn team that still had Diana Taurasi," Cook said with a grin of satisfaction.
These days, however, such upsets are rare in tuneups judging by the lopsided victories the D-I crowd has been posting against the lesser divisions.
Still, the winning coaches see something of value in the effort their teams are producing that also pump hope into the fan bases for success over the months ahead.
Thus Terrapins coach Brenda Frese found much to enjoy over Maryland's 121-50 win against District of Columbia Sunday afternoon in her team's second dress rehearsal in advance of Saturday's opener here against Monmouth.
The visitors for the first game that will count officially in the won-loss columns, incidentally, are coached by Stephanie Gaitley, who played at Villanova and coached at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. Monmouth athletic director Marilyn McNeil is also the new chairwoman of the NCAA Division I women's basketball committee.
"We looked a lot more confident and relaxed," Freese said about an attack that showed how much depth Maryland has on its roster fueled by a very talented freshman class. "Our second game we felt we should be more sharp and crisp in what we were doing and I thought that showed, especially in the first half. I thought offensively and defensively you can see the wave of players we can send and the depth that we have and I thought we were extremely unselfish today in the game."
If newcomers Alyssa Thomas, a 6-foot-2 forward from Harrisburg, Pa., and 6-4 center Alicia DeVaughn of West Palm Beach, Fla., produce as they did Sunday, considering they have names that sound alike, there could be some pleasant confusion as to who is who when the Terrapins, picked preseason fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference by the media, battle the veteran clubs of Duke, North Carolina and Florida State ahead of them in the conference wars.
Thomas scored the first nine points for Maryland and finished with 20 while DeVaughn had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Additionally, freshman Natasha Cloud, the graduate of the Cardinal O'Hara powerhouse in Philadelphia's Catholic League, had another fine outing,scoring 17 points off the bench. Junior guard Kim Rodgers had 15 points, including 12 that were collected off of 4-of-8 three point attempts from beyond the arc.
"Alyssa came ready to play from the tip," Frese said. "That's contagious for any team when you bring tremendous energy like Alyssa does. I thought from the first exhibition game to the second exhibition game, maybe it had been nerves, was her ability to finish.
"You see how she can impact the game in so many different areas, you can see how really special she is."
Junior Lynetta Kizer, the first name associated with a Maryland squad devoid of seniors, didn't even play in the first half and still scored 18 points on 6-for-7 from the field.
Her absence in the opening 20 minutes caused speculation that perhaps a team rule had been broken or some disciplinary measure had been applied but Frese brushed those queries aside saying she just wanted to try different combinations.
The difficulty with outcomes like the ones here Tuesday and Sunday in which a team like Maryland has superior talent is trying to gauge whether or not the performances are signs of things to come when Maryland gets into the heart of the regular season schedule.
And in some ways, because of these outcomes there is a bit of anticipation waiting for the first of those kinds of confrontations, which for Maryland, ranked 21st in the Associated Press preseason poll, will come Tuesday night next week when the Terrapins venture into the district in the nation's capital to meet No. 13 Georgetown.
"I think we're ready," Frese said. "I think those two exhibition games help you understand, putting on the uniform, whether you are prepared. But, yeah, we are absolutely ready to see how we stack up and to play our competition and we're looking forward to it."
While the scoring spree has wowed the crowds, Maryland is also showing some defensive muscle, a trait that lacked somewhat on the national championship squad in 2006 and the succeeding ones that tried to return to the NCAA Women's Final Four with the same core group that included WNBA All-Star Crystal Langhorne, Cheltenham High's Laura Harper from suburban Philadelphia, forward Marissa Coleman and point guard Kristi Toliver.
"That;s very important," the Maryland coach said of the pressure exerted the first two games. "Being able to use our length. Again when had the most success, we had a lot of our freshmen in there and they brought great intensity to the press. I think we can show a lot of different matchups and style of play.
Continuing to praise the frosh group, Frese said, "These are the first two games they have played in a Maryland uniform and they showed they belong, early, I think you can see they are going to be counted on a lot. You can see the imprint they are going to make on this team.
"They are players and players make plays. Every single possession, they compete and they compete as hard as they can. That's why good things are going to happen for them."