Photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis
With a win over Bucknell on Friday, Maryland’s seniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones would guarantee themselves one more game at the Xfinity Center.
The two seniors obviously did not want to leave their home gym just yet.
Jones finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Walker-Kimbrough added a team-high 28 points in Maryland’s 103-61 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament over 14th-seeded Bucknell.
“Those two just completely took over and we didn’t have a real answer to be honest with you,” Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell said.
The Terps shot 58 percent from the field, and the 103 points scored was a Maryland NCAA Tournament record. They were also able to take care of the basketball, as they committed only five turnovers on the offensive end.
“As a team, we wanted to come out and make them feel our presence,” Walker-Kimbrough said.
Maryland’s offense had a big-time showing, but it was the defense that was key in the win. The Terps held the Bison to 37 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range. The Maryland defense forced 20 turnovers, which turned into 23 points, and held Bucknell’s leading scorer Claire DeBoer to just five points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“They’re super tough on both ends of the floor,” DeBoer said. “I was feeling a lot of pressure and I was trying to take some outside shots and they weren’t really falling for me today, so then at the end there I tried to attack a little more. I think I should have done that a little bit more throughout the game.”
For Bucknell, having only 20 made shots but also 20 turnovers was not the recipe for success. In their last games in a Bison uniform, seniors Megan McGurk and Sune Swart were the only two Bucknell players to finish in double figures. Swart, however, was dominated by Jones on the other end.
“She could bury me down there,” Swart said about Jones. “They’re a Big Ten school so it’s kind of what I expected. I just tried my best to hang with her.”
After being tabbed as a No. 3 seed by the NCAA selection committee, the Terps had something to prove, and they came out hungry to start the game. By the media timeout, just over five minutes into the game, Maryland had already forced five turnovers.
“We were really proud of our defense being able to set the tone, especially on Claire [DeBoer],” Frese said.
The Terrapins’ defensive intensity was present from the get-go, as they turned six turnovers into 11 points in the first quarter. On the offensive end, Jones and Walker-Kimbrough combined to score Maryland’s first 20 points, and the Terps held a 22-10 lead after 10 minutes.
The intensity on defense continued in the second quarter as the Terps forced seven more turnovers in the frame. No Bucknell player was able to score more than five points in the first half, and Brenda Frese’s defense held the Bison to 8-of-25 shooting from the field in the first 20 minutes.
By halftime, the Terps had built a 45-22 lead, and the two seniors combined for 35 of those points. Destiny Slocum was 0-for-4 from field and only tallied one point in the first half, but dished out four assists and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds.
Frese’s team further pulled away in the third quarter, and she was able to empty her bench. Freshmen Sarah Myers, Jenna Staiti, Stephanie Jones and Blair Watson were able to get valuable tournament experience that could pay off for the Terps in the long run this March. The freshmen helped Maryland’s lead grow to 71-39 after three quarters.
“We wanted to get those nerves and anxiousness out for [our] seven new players, when you talk about the NCAA Tournament,” Frese said. “Your depth is huge.”
The freshmen, along with sophomore Kiah Gillespie and junior Ieshia Small, played out most of the fourth quarter, and the starters on the Maryland bench absolutely loved every second of it.
Bucknell was a solid test for the Terps, but the matchup with sixth-seeded West Virginia will be the first real test of the tournament for Maryland, as they look to avenge last season’s second-round exit.
The Terps will be back in action on Sunday in the Xfinity Center against West Virginia or in a second-round NCAA Tournament matchup.
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