Maryland-Utah: Maryland's Forwards Are the Focus Versus No. 9 Utah
The Lady Terrapins are tearing up the basketball court in record numbers.
Their 82-53 opening round NCAA tournament win over No. 16 Dartmouth highlighted the many weapons that Maryland brings to each contest. Maryland (29-4) held a 52-34 rebounding edge, and scored 20 points off of fast breaks.
Few teams can stop the Terrapin train when it starts going full speed.
Utah coach Elaine Elliott is aware of the challenge her team faces at Comcast Center tonight. “Maryland’s transition game is really more like you’re not ready to defend that soon, and they’re ready to shoot and go at you that soon,” said Elliott.
Utah (23-9) prefers a more methodical approach to the game. Their offensive style is to play keep away, work the ball from side to side, and keep the defenders on their heels.
The Terrapins are opportunistic. Senior Kristi Toliver uses her quick hands to disrupt her opponent’s passing lanes. She is savvy, and knows when to take some chances that lead to fast break opportunities. Maryland knows what to expect from this fearless lady.
Maryland Coach Brenda Frese would be wise to utilize her taller, albeit less experienced front court players to keep the Utes under pressure. 6-foot-6 true freshman center Yemi Okefuwa began her playing career on the streets of London, England. She is raw, but has the lanky frame that makes her hard to clear out of the middle. Her long arms could spell trouble for the Utes, if starting center Lynetta Kizer gets in early foul trouble.
I would like to see Frese throw some new kinks her offensive rotations, especially if Maryland finds its transition game starting slow.
Depth is not a problem for Maryland. Reserve guard Marah Strickland is a defensive stopper, and draws her opponent’s best shooters.
In the ACC championship game versus Duke, Strickland held top Blue Devils’ scorer, Abby Waner to 11 points. Waner rarely shot the ball without a hand in her face.
Utah had the same type of performance in their first round game versus Villanova. Junior forward Kalee Whipple shadowed the Wildcats’ Laura Kurz all game. She held Kurz to 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Whipple expects to draw the ACC player of the year, Marissa Coleman to start tonight’s game.
It was scary that the Terrapins were able to take such a huge lead over Dartmouth, because Coleman was held to nine points. She averaged over 23 points per game in the ACC tournament. The senior forward found other ways to contribute in Maryland’s 14th straight win. She grabbed 13 rebounds, and notched fuve assists to keep Maryland rolling into the second round.
“She’s an all-around great player. Not only does she score, she gets offensive rebounds for them, she gets putbacks," said Whipple. “You can never take time off against her.”
The home town College Park crowd has been extremely supportive of their Lady Terrapins all year. The last game was no exception.
Comcast Center drew the most fans (10,847) of any of the 16 first round NCAA games, and another monster crowd is expected tonight.
According to senior Utes’ guard Morgan Warburton the noise won’t bother her team. “We played in front of big crowds at the Pit in Albuquerque and won,” said Warburton. “We have to execute our game plan, because if we play at Maryland’s pace we won’t move on.”
Tonight marks the final home game for Maryland’s talented tandem of Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman.
In their career, Maryland is 64-3 at the Comcast Center.
Prediction: Maryland -76 Utah -68
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