The Maryland women have flashed the offensive prowess usually associated with Brenda Frese teams - they’ve eclipsed 80 points on three occasions this season - but there also are times when their shots aren’t falling with regularity.
An increasingly evident characteristic of this year’s team, however, is the ability to compensate when it goes cold from the floor. That was the case Thursday night, when the Terrapins held Minnesota to 27.1 percent shooting en route to a 66-45 victory at Comcast Center in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“Where we really want to hang our hat at is on defense,” sophomore Lynetta Kizer said. “We’re really looking to be able to stop other teams because we know our offense will come.”
The Terps were especially tough on senior Ashley Ellis-Milan, who entered averaging 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds. The 6-foot-2 forward was hounded all night by the taller combination of Maryland centers Kizer (6-4) and Yemi Oyefuwa (6-6).
Ellis-Milan seemed unaccustomed to playing against bigger players; she was limited to eight points on 2-for-13 shooting.
“That’s a credit to our low-post defense,” Frese said. “I thought Lynetta and Yemi did a tremendous job. We really talked about how hard [Ellis-Milan] seals and ducks in and just after the catch making her have to score through us. We just made her have to take tough shots.”
Frese has been tinkering with her rotation this season, trying to find the right combinations with her young team, and she is seeing benefits from putting Kim Rodgers into the starting lineup. The redshirt sophomore led Maryland with 14 points and eight rebounds in her second start in a row.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” Rodgers said of her transition into the starting five. “I don’t think it really matters whether you start or whether you come off the bench. I just think it matters that you’re ready to play when you get your chance.”
Kizer had 10 points and five rebounds on a light night of work in her return to the starting lineup. She played 18 minutes off the bench against Drexel while nursing a sprained ankle.
“I think the momentum brought me through the game pretty much, the high energy that my teammates were feeding off and I was feeding off,” she said. “I wasn’t really too worried about it.”
Maryland (7-1) used a 13-3 run in 7:48 of the first half to grab control and take a comfortable 31-22 lead into the break. The Terps extended their lead with a 10-2 run in the opening minutes of the second.
The Terps fared better Thursday night in their first test against major competition since an 84-55 thrashing at the hands of Mississippi State two weeks ago. The Golden Gophers (5-3), who have scored as many as 94 points in a game this season, managed just 16 field goals.
“We know we can score, but getting stops is what’s really going to take this team far this year,” Rodgers said.