After an uninspired start, Maryland cruised to a 79-51 victory over Howard on Friday night.
But the most significant consequence of the evening won’t be known until Saturday, when the Terrapins will learn more about the extent of an injury to Lynetta Kizer, who left Friday’s game with a sprained left ankle.
“When you only have 10 healthy players, we have very little margin for error or injuries,” coach Brenda Frese said. “This may be her first injury, so that’s always a psychological battle to have to deal with.”
Kizer left with 1:20 remaining in the first half after she jumped to retrieve an inbounds pass and landed awkwardly on the ankle. While trainer Matt Charvat attended to her, Comcast Center fell silent, the only audible noise being Kizer’s groans of pain. After several minutes on the floor, Kizer was helped to the bench.
At the end of the first half, she was helped back to the locker room. The 6-foot-4 center returned to the bench midway through the second half with the help of a crutch and a boot on her left foot.
Kizer is the Terps’ lone returning starter and their unquestioned leader. The sophomore entered Friday’s game leading the team in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (8.2), and she also anchors Maryland’s defense.
While the Terps do have depth, they lack experience. And any long-term absence or ineffectiveness because of a lingering injury to Kizer could have disastrous results, especially when the ACC schedule rolls around.
The good news for Maryland (5-1) is that Kizer’s potential replacement in the starting lineup, Tianna Hawkins, continued to impress. The freshman had been averaging 11.0 points and 7.8 rebounds off the bench; on Friday, she produced 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“She’s continued to work herself into tremendously good shape,” Frese said. “I think the number one reason why she’s been so consistent is she’s done a terrific job utilizing minutes and putting herself in a position to be successful.”
Hawkins had just three points at the time of Kizer’s injury but teamed well with fellow freshman Diandra Tchatchouang (14 points) to control the paint thereafter.
“When I saw Lynetta go down, I kinda figured that it would take her a minute to come back,” Hawkins said. “But when I noticed she came back on [crutches], that was my time to step up.”
For much of the first half, the Bison (1-4) stuck around. When a layup by Howard’s Portia Deterville tied the score at 26-26 with 3:41 left, Maryland answered with a 10-0 run and continued that surge for a 39-28 lead at halftime. Behind a full-court defense, Maryland forced a pair of turnovers in that stretch.
“When you look at the length of our frontcourt and our backcourt having some speed, I think that’s a really good combination in terms of our traps,” Frese said.
From there, Maryland used its size advantage effectively to cruise to the blowout victory. The Terps outrebounded Howard 49-34 for the game and held the Bison to 24.1 percent shooting in the second half.
But the schedule soon stiffens for the Terps - starting with a visit from Minnesota on Thursday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge - and they may have to make do without their best player for the immediate future.
No. 25 MICHIGAN ST. 78, GW 47: Jasmine Thomas scored nine of her 15 points during a decisive run in the second half to help the Spartans (3-2) rout the Colonials (2-2) in the Junkanoo Jam in Nassau, Bahamas.
No. 15 Virginia 78, South Dakota State 66: Paulisha Kellum scored a career-high 25 points as the Cavaliers (5-1) topped the Jackrabbits (2-4) in the Junkanoo Jam.
George Mason 72, N.C. Central 57: Amber Easter had 20 points and 15 rebounds as the hosts (3-2) rolled at Patriot Center.