I had a sneaking suspicion that the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (22-4, 9-2 ACC) would need a solid outing from someone other than Kristi Toliver or Marissa Coleman to keep their winning streak alive.
My prediction was almost right, as freshman center Lynetta Kizer wracked up a career-high 22 points in Maryland’s 87-79 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Go-to-girl, Marissa Coleman, notched her fifth 20-or-more-point performance in six games to guide Maryland past a team that has played them tough in recent seasons.
Much to the delight of Maryland’s bench, Kizer stole the spotlight from her talented teammate tonight.
The rookie was sensational from the opening minutes of this pivotal ACC matchup.
The 6'4" enforcer grabbed an offensive rebound, spun past a defender for an easy layup, and cut to the basket without breaking a sweat to add two more points for her surging team.
She also blocked a shot, and stole a pass.
Her energy lifted the Terrapins when they needed it the most.
“If I can bring anything to the team, it’s energy,” said Kizer, a former All-Met at Potomac (Va.) last season. “That’s what I like to do.”
Clearly emotional, Kizer let out a roar when she was fouled after taking the ball strong to the hoop in the second half.
Kizer punished the Yellow Jackets inside the paint, with 10 rebounds, (six offensive) and three blocks.
Senior Marissa Coleman has been the energizer for the Terrapins in recent games.
Coleman used her athletic ability to help complement Kizer’s outstanding play to have another fine day herself.
She finished the game with 23 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. I believe her foul shooting made a big difference is Maryland’s win as well. She nailed all 11 of her free throw attempts.
That is leadership, folks.
The ACC tournament begins on Mar. 5.
There is an adage in the sports world that goes like this.
You want to be heading into the postseason playing your best ball.
I think that is what Maryland is accomplishing right now. They are well prepared, and execute with regularity despite good competition.
Georgia Tech (18-8, 5-6 ACC) is not one of the “power” teams in the ACC, having never finished above fourth place in the conference’s history.
The Terrapins knew better than to underestimate them, because they remember falling to the Yellow Jackets, 77-72 two seasons ago in Atlanta.
Maryland likes to get out and generate fast breaks, and Georgia Tech’s strength is holding teams down with physical interior post movement.
It was important that Maryland establish their game plan early, and avoid the costly turnovers that plagued them in previous games versus Georgia Tech.
Maryland had averaged 24.3 turnovers in the teams’ past three meetings.
During their five-game winning streak, Maryland had cut their turnover average from 17.9 to 10.8.
Fundamental basketball is simple.
Stay in control of the ball, and the scoring opportunities will increase.
The Yellow Jackets are great at playing the role of spoiler, claiming wins against No. 21 Michigan State, and following up with an upset of No.2 North Carolina on their home court.
In fact, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman had never won in Georgia.
“Kristi and I talked about it, how our sophomore year we lost that tough one here and that left a bad taste in our mouth,” said Coleman.
“It feels like every game we’ve had the last couple of weeks is one of those game where we’re coming in saying we’re not going to lose it. We’ve got another one on Sunday, another revenge game.
Maryland goes for their seventh straight win, but will have to go through a hated rival to do it.
The Duke Blue Devils (22-3, 9-2 ACC) come to Comcast Center with an almost identical record as the Terrapins.
The two teams are currently tied for second place in the ACC. No. 11 Florida State (22-5, 10-1 ACC) is in first place. Georgia Tech could not stop Maryland’s strong passing game.
The Terps spread the ball around. Movement without the ball, especially by Lynetta Kizer led to easy buckets. They hit high-percentage shots, such as layups and short jumpers off of offensive rebounds.
Maryland’s 87 points were the most Georgia Tech had given up all year.
The Terrapins had 18 assists, and 19 of 29 field goals came via the layup.
Maryland led by 23 points, before Georgia Tech was able to go on a 15-2 run with 8 minutes and 22 seconds to play.
The Terrapin lead was cut to 10 points, with just under five minutes to play.
The score was 77-67, but there was no need to panic if you were a Terps fan.
Sophomore guard Marah Strickland (15 points) swished her fourth three-pointer of the game to win back control of the contest.
None of this would matter if it weren’t for Maryland’s burgeoning star center.
She leads all rookies in the ACC in points (13.2 per game) and rebounds. (7.5 per game)
Coach Brenda Frese credits Lynetta Kizer with sparking the rest of the team’s fire.
“She just gave us tremendous post presence,” said a proud Frese. “You could tell she was ready from the tip; she was active, she was aggressive...This is what we need from our big girl, this kind of energy.”
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