The ACC-CAA Challenge (unofficial)
This afternoon, the Terps ended the long holiday weekend with a match-up against Drexel University, the pre-season favorite to win the CAA title this year. Playing their most complete game of the young season, Maryland came away with a decisive win, 82-65.
The Dragons brought an experienced roster into Comcast, so Coach B countered by starting a couple of Maryland veterans, Kim Rodgers and Anjale Barrett. The strategy was obviously successful as the maturity and excellent play of both Kim and Anjale were critical in helping the young Terps keep their focus today.
Lori Bjork, though a Maryland newbie, is herself an experienced player, and that experience was likewise crucial today, as Lori not only led all scorers with 19, but also hit a huge three-pointer (one of her four treys) late in the game when Drexel closed the gap to single digits. Lori's basket gave the Terps a double-digit lead that they never relinquished. And while Diandra T may be a freshman -- technically speaking -- her international experience shines through, as she continues to play with confidence and skill beyond her years, once again scoring in double figures (18).
Of course, today's big question as we arrived at Comcast was whether Lynetta Kizer, who sprained her ankle in Friday's game against Howard, would be well enough to play, and it was truly heartening to see Netta warming up with the team. Although Netta did not start, she did play 18 solid minutes, during which she put up 13 points, including a perfect 5 of 5 from the free throw line. And, speaking of the charity stripe, the Terps as a team hit an impressive 25 of 31 from the line today.
No real lapses (playing the full 40 minutes), offensive and defensive intensity, veteran leadership, excellent free throw shooting . . . it all added up to an important early season win. And make no mistake: Drexel was not part of the parade of cupakes. Today's game was against a solid mid-major team that was expected to give the Terps a tough contest, and, being candid, a 17-point margin of victory is more than we were expecting. Watching their performance, we thought the young Terps showed signs of real growth this afternoon. Let's hope they can continue to grow, because the road ahead will get tougher as the season wears on.
As for tough opponents . . . Next up for the Terps is the ACC-Big 10 Challenge on Thursday evening against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Like Drexel, Minny should really test the young Terrapins, and Maryland will need to play with the same focus and intensity that they showed today if they are to keep their home win streak alive.
With Thursday's game part of an inter-conference challenge, and, in particular, against Minnesota, the Terps will need plenty of fan support that night. The BasketCases have heard that a very large (and most likely vocal) contingent of Gopher fans is traveling here with their team for the game. We suspect that some may still have hurt feelings from Coach B's decision to leave Minnesota for Maryland. So, a large -- and loud -- turnout of Terps fans will be critical to helping keep the visiting fans at bay!
Terps fans -- see you Thursday. Protect this House!