- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

After last Sunday’s win against Rutgers, Maryland women’s coach Brenda Frese beamed with pride in her team’s effort - but for a reason not always associated with the Terrapins.

Known for their explosive offense, the Terps instead clamped down on defense to secure the win against the Scarlet Knights.

“I thought we did a tremendous job, just understanding that this was going to be a different game,” Frese said after Maryland’s 67-47 win. “It was going to be more slow-paced, and we understood that it was going to come down to getting stops on the defensive end and then executing on the offensive end.”

That’s the kind of effort No. 9 Maryland (22-4, 9-2 ACC) likely will need to duplicate when it hosts No. 7 Duke (22-3, 9-2) on Sunday. Like Rutgers, the Blue Devils’ strength is their defense; they are holding teams to a league-low 58.9 points a game in conference play.

But Maryland, which is tops in the ACC at 81.9 points a game in conference play, has shown an improved defense during its six-game winning streak. The Terps were vocal about their disappointment after giving up 81 points in a win against Boston College on Feb. 9, and a visit from athletic director and former women’s basketball coach Debbie Yow drove home the point.

It has been their focus in practice for weeks, and the results are finally starting to show. They held Virginia to 38.7 percent from the floor Feb. 12, Rutgers to 24.7 last Sunday and Georgia Tech to 41.0 on the road Thursday.

Frese often says the key is getting players to buy in to playing defense, to get them into the mentality that defense is fun, too. That’s something that Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer noticed last weekend.

“I thought that Maryland played better defense than I’ve seen them play,” Stringer said. “I think they enjoyed playing defense.”

Anchoring Maryland’s defensive growth has been sophomore guard Marah Strickland, who is routinely tasked with shadowing an opponent’s best outside scorer. Her most notable effort came last weekend, when she held Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince to 19 points on 7-for-29 shooting.

“I’ve watched a lot of their games, and [Prince] usually doesn’t shoot figures like that, so I credit our defense and the fact that she had to work,” Frese said. “Every shot she took was a difficult shot. It was a contested hand to the face. Nothing she got was easy.”

Sunday’s winner will have the inside track at a top-two seed in the ACC tournament. Duke and Maryland are tied for second in the conference behind No. 11 Florida State (22-5, 10-1). Duke won the first meeting this year in typical low-scoring fashion - 68-65 on Jan. 12 in Durham, N.C.

Repaying recent losses has been a motivating factor during the Terps’ run, and Sunday presents another opportunity for what senior Marissa Coleman has been calling a “revenge game.”

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