- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There are bound to be growing pains for the Maryland women this season, stretches of ineffectiveness stemming from an inexperienced roster still settling into playing with each other and the college game in general.

The Terrapins experienced that Monday night - a nearly 10-minute stretch without a field goal in the first half - but overcame the sluggish shooting performance with stingy defense to grab a 63-43 win over New Hampshire at Comcast Center.

“I thought we went through a lot of adversity in the first half, and we didn’t handle it well, just in our body language and letting our emotions get the best of us,” coach Brenda Frese said. “This is what I love about coaching this team. You challenge them, and I thought they did a good job of responding to that challenge after halftime.”

When the Terps went through an offensive lull last year, they were able to turn to Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman for support. But the Terps (2-0) had no such answer to their drought in the first half and let what looked like was going to be another laugher turn into a six-point game at halftime.

“We’re still trying to find that [go-to player],” Frese said. “And until that happens, where we can get back into an offensive rhythm and a flow, we have to be able to play great team defense.”

That’s what happened Monday night. Maryland is still at its best when it rolls up points in transition, but if its first two games have shown anything, it’s that these Terps have committed to the defensive end from Day One.

They never allowed New Hampshire (1-1) to get into a rhythm on offense. The undersized Wildcats tried to go inside early but found little room to work. It took them nearly five minutes to make their first field goal - a 3-pointer by Lauren Wells - but even with guard-heavy lineups the Wildcats could never get shots to fall consistently. New Hampshire shot just 25.8 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers on top of that.

Frese again got solid minutes from her freshman class, notably point guard Dara Taylor (10 points, five assists) and forward Tianna Hawkins (seven points, 15 rebounds) off the bench.

But the most impressive freshman so far has been Diandra Tchatchouang. The forward from France had a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes and has flashed a versatile game with both inside and outside scoring.

“Our teammates are helping. And from the coaching staff, there’s a lot of support and a lot of confidence in you,” Taylor said. “Just the five of us together, I think we’re growing as a whole and as a team we’re growing together. I think it’s working out pretty well.”

Maryland led 26-20 at halftime and was never really threatened in the second half, incrementally increasing its lead until the final buzzer. It may not have been the dominant performance Comcast Center faithful have grown used to seeing, but it’s clear this team is still learning.

“Obviously it wasn’t a pretty game statistically, but I think the thing I’m most proud of is that despite not being able to buy a basket in the first half, we were able to respond the way we did in the second half,” Frese said. “It says a lot about this team to be able to grind out a win.”

• Mike Fratto can be reached at mfratto@washingtontimes.com.

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