COLLEGE PARK, Md. | In the days leading up to Maryland’s first NCAA tournament appearance in two years, coach Brenda Frese wondered how her young team would react to the pressure of a lose-and-go-home situation.
She couldn’t have been more delighted with the answer.
The Terrapins scored the game’s first 13 points, led by 23 at halftime and cruised to an opening-round 70-48 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) on Sunday.
Alyssa Thomas scored 10 of her 16 points in the first half for the Terrapins (24-7), who have no seniors and six freshmen (including Thomas) on the roster.
Maryland’s youth - and the fact that all but three of its players were making their debut in the NCAA tournament - proved irrelevant against the overmatched Red Flash (22-12).
“Your concern with a young team, when you only have three returning players, is how they’re going to handle the NCAA tournament,” Frese said. “They responded really well, like the winners that they are, and came out and played with a lot of confidence. That’s what we were wanting to see.”
Maryland, the fourth seed in the Philadelphia Regional, will next face fifth-seeded Georgetown, which beat Princeton 65-49 Sunday.
“We’re excited about moving on and being one of the last 32 teams in the tournament,” Frese said.
Brittany Lilley and Nickia Gibbs each scored 10 for 13th-seed St. Francis, the Northeast Conference champions. A year ago, the Red Flash were eliminated in the opening round with a 93-59 loss to Ohio State.
St. Francis had the edge over the Terps in tournament experience, but Maryland was unlike most of the teams the Red Flash see during the regular season.
“They’re a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger than what we’re used to in our conference,” said Allison Daly, one of four guards in the St. Francis starting lineup.
The Terrapins finished with a 49-32 rebounding advantage, forced 24 turnovers and limited St. Francis to 31 percent shooting from the floor.
In the second game in College Park, Georgetown guard Sugar Rodgers outscored Princeton in the first half, leading the way in the Hoyas’ victory.
Rodgers scored 16 before halftime to help stake the Hoyas to a 34-14 lead. The 5-foot-11 sophomore finished with 26 points and led the team in rebounds (eight) and assists (four).
Addie Micir led Princeton (24-5) with 13 points. Bidding to become only the second Ivy League team to win an NCAA tournament game, the Tigers were no match for their Big East foe.