Terrapins get physical, beat up on the Bobcats
Less than three minutes into its NCAA opener Saturday at Comcast Center, Quinnipiac ran five fresh players to the scorer's table. The Bobcats call it "Gold Rush." For a while, it looked like the prescription to handle depth-challenged Maryland, which had more injured players on its bench (four) than able-bodied (three).
Seeded No. 13, Quinnipiac was seeking an edge against No. 4 Maryland. But after a promising start, the Bobcats discovered they were no match for the size, speed and pedigree of the Terrapins. By late in the first half, it was Maryland running free and easy on its way to a 72-52 victory.
With junior All-American Alyssa Thomas (29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists) dominating the open floor and senior Tianna Hawkins (23 points, 16 rebounds) ruling the lane, Maryland (25-7) advanced to the round of 32 on Monday night against No. 5 Michigan State (25-8).
The quintessential showcase of the Terps' physical edge came when the 6-foot-2 Thomas threw a touchdown pass from under her own basket, hitting the 6-3 Hawkins in stride at the arc. The senior finished with a layup.
"I don't think they've seen a team like us," Thomas said of the Northeast Conference champions, who were playing in the tournament for the first time. "They found it very hard to match up."
It was the eighth straight opening-round NCAA victory for Maryland, but it didn't come without breaking a sweat. Quinnipiac (30-3) reserve Ellen Cannon (nine points) hit her first three 3-point attempts and Lisa Lebak (eight points) added another as the Bobcats assumed a 21-12 lead and continued to swap out players en masse at intervals of less than three minutes.
"We haven't seen that style all season, so it really made us have to communicate," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.
Playing for the first time in two weeks, it took Maryland a while to respond. Limiting the Bobcats to one field goal in the last 6:56 of the first half and one in the first 6:44 of the second, Maryland went on a 29-5 spree that transformed a nine-point deficit into a 15-point lead. Defense paved the way throughout as the Terps limited the Bobcats to 23 percent shooting.
"Once we got a feel for the game, everything started to flow," Hawkins said. "Our defense was there the whole game."
After matching Maryland on the boards in the first half, Quinnipiac was outrebounded in the second 37-9 as 6-4 junior Alicia DeVaughn (eight points, 17 rebounds) and even 5-8 junior Katie Rutan (eight points, 11 rebounds) notched their respective career highs.
"They're a lot longer than we are to be sure," said Quinnipiac junior Brittany McQuain (six points, nine rebounds). "If we had played against those bodies all year, we would have been a little more prepared."
In the end, Maryland came best equipped for a physical game. Even with Quinnipiac's unique five-in, five-out scheme, it was the Bobcats who wore down.
"Quinnipiac has the No. 1 hockey team in the country," Frese said. "That game today kind of felt like a hockey game with that substitution pattern, the physicality, very aggressive game."