Maryland women’s basketball seniors walked onto the court for their final regular season home game arm-in-arm with family members carrying balloons and flowers. As the announcer at Comcast Center listed the players’ accomplishments before Friday’s game, coach Brenda Frese greeted each with an emotional embrace at center court. Pictures were snapped. Memories relived.
It was a festive atmosphere on senior night. But the party didn’t stop even once the game got started.
After honoring seniors Anjale Barret, Lynetta Kizer and Kim Rodgers before 8,029, No. 6 Maryland jumped to an early lead and rode it to an 84-64 trouncing of North Carolina.
Sophomore forward Alyssa Thomas paced Maryland (24-4, 11-4 ACC) with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
“Coach B stressed that we needed to come out and get the seniors a win so that it would be a [game] that they would remember,” Thomas said. “So we went out and played as hard as we could play.”
Sophomore center Alicia DeVaughn had 14 points and sophomore guard Laurin Mincy had 13, but Friday was all about the seniors. Frese chose to start all three.
“It’s been a long five years here. The journey has been really nice,” Rodgers said. “Just to hear my name that one last time in front of the home crowd, it was cool.”
Rodgers and Kizer combined for three early 3-pointers to take an early 11-1 lead, while the Tar Heels were held without a field goal for more than five and a half minutes to start the game.
The Tar Heels (19-9, 9-6) shot just 25 percent from the field in the first half. A play by senior forward Laura Broomfield summed up the struggles. Standing on the block, Broomfield missed four lay ups in a row before the Terps finally secured the rebound and went sprinting down court in transition.
“I just think the biggest difference was heart,” said Tar Heels senior forward Chay Shegog — the lone bright spot for North Carolina with 24 points. “When we first played them, we played them with a lot of pride, with a lot of passion, with a lot of heart. Tonight, we just came out flat, dug ourselves into a hole and couldn’t get out of it.”
By the time Shegog hit the Tar Heels’ first field goal, the Terps were up nine.
It took another five minutes before a Tar Heel other than Shegog sunk a field goal. When Tierra Ruffin-Pratt hit one, the Terps had stretched their lead to 16. By the time She’la White filled that column on the stat sheet, the lead was 18. Broomfield — 24.
When the buzzer finally sounded, Maryland took a 53-29 lead to the locker room, making the second half a little more than a formality.
Yet, there was just one more matter of business before the game could be official. With 1:36 remaining, Frese called a timeout as the crowd rose to its feet for one last celebration of the seniors.
“It was fitting,” Frese said of her decision to call the timeout. “Obviously, you couldn’t have scripted it any better from start to finish for them. How they came out from the tip with the knockout punch and how they led and then to be able to give them the round of applause at the end. [It was] fitting for three players that have given four and five years to this program.”