Terps face West Virginia with Sweet-16 trip on the line

Photo by Lauren Anikis

Last season, the Terps were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and looked like a promising team that could make another Final Four run.

However, 7th-seeded Washington quickly ended Maryland’s hopes with a 74-65 win over the Terps at the Xfinity Center. Now, Brenda Frese’s team will look to learn from its mistakes last season as they try to avoid another second-round exit.

“We learned from Washington [that] we kinda got started too late,” Frese said. “Something we’ve talked about is punch first, set the tone early.”

This time around, the Terps will take on 6th-seeded West Virginia, who defeated No. 11 seed Elon 75-62 in Friday’s first round.

The Mountaineers come into the game 24-10 on the season, and have won five consecutive games. They were looking at a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament until they rattled three straight wins in the Big 12 Tournament over Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor to claim the conference tournament title.

West Virginia’s offense, which ranks 28th in the nation in scoring, is led by sophomore guard Tynice Martin. She averages 18.9 points per game, and scored 26 in the win over Elon. Martin also has a great ability to get to the free throw line, and shoots 81.3 percent from the stripe.

After Martin, the Mountaineers also rely on junior forward Teana Muldrow, who may be West Virginia’s toughest player to guard. Muldrow stands at 6-foot-1, and has the strength to play down low, where she grabs 8.6 rebounds per game, but she can also play on the perimeter. The junior shoots 38.1 percent from 3-point range, but did not knock down a 3-pointer against Elon.

Martin will most likely be guarded by Kaila Charles, who is Maryland’s most versatile defender. Charles has the length and the speed to guard every position on the floor, and that will help the Terps combat the versatility of Martin.

The advantage in the inside battle during Sunday’s game should go to Brionna Jones, who is averaging 20 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and scored 25 points against Bucknell on Friday. However, West Virginia senior center Lanay Montgomery, who stands at 6-foot-5, could give Jones some trouble inside.

Montgomery averages 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and shoots 68 percent from the field, which comes in just below Jones’ Division I-best 69.6 percent. The Mountaineers’ center would rank third in the nation in field goal percentage behind Jones, but she has not taken enough shots to qualify.

If Jones can not not win the inside battle with Montgomery, Sunday’s matchup could end up being the last game in a Maryland uniform for her and fellow senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Those two seniors, however, will do anything they can to keep playing basketball for the Terps.

In Maryland’s first-round win over Bucknell, Walker-Kimbrough and Jones each scored over 25 points, and combined to score the Terps’ first 20 points of the game. With the work the two have put in over their four years, Frese and her younger players want to send the seniors out on a high note.

“All season long, we’ve played for our seniors,” Frese said Monday. “They’ve led and guided every step of the way, so I know from our players to our staff, we’ve worked extremely hard to be able to send them out the right way.”

Despite the 53 combined points against Bucknell, the two Maryland seniors will not be able to do it all on their own. They will need the help of a freshman-heavy bench that is competing in its first NCAA Tournament.

That bench, though, got some important experience Friday. Each Maryland player saw at least seven minutes in the first-round victory, and all of them scored. The Terps were up big in the third quarter, and Frese was able to play her freshmen for most of the remainder of the game.

“Our seniors will definitely lead and guide our team, but the great thing about Destiny [Slocum] and our freshmen is that they really haven’t presented like freshmen all season,” Frese said last week. “They never once played with nerves and anxiety.”
The NCAA Tournament second-round matchup between the Terps and Mountaineers will tip off at either noon or 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Xfinity Center. The game can be seen on ESPN2.

Connor Newcomb
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Connor Newcomb

Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.
Connor Newcomb
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About Connor Newcomb 102 Articles
Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.