Maryland, Michigan State women a bit out of their depth

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps,University of Maryland

Terrapins and Spartans plagued by a rash of torn ACLs

Much has been written about the susceptibility of female athletes to knee injuries. Few basketball teams can speak to the trend with as much experience as Maryland and Michigan State.

While the Terrapins lost three players in the fall to torn ACLs, including a pair of backcourt starters, Michigan State saw two players go down to the same injury. Other maladies have subtracted two others from the roster of the Spartans and one from the Terps, leaving both teams with just seven rotation players.

When fourth-seeded Maryland (25-7) and fifth-seeded Michigan State (25-8) meet in the NCAA round of 32 on Monday, it will be a tale of wounded teams that have thrived despite their lack of depth.

NCAA second round
No. 5 Michigan State at No. 4 Maryland
When » Monday, 7 p.m.
Where » Comcast Center
TV » ESPN2

"Both teams are tremendous stories," Maryland coach Brenda Frese told reporters Sunday. "I think the NCAA matched up two teams that are mirror images."

Mirror images indeed. Both lost their tallest player to an ACL tear. For Michigan State's 6-foot-7 Madison Williams, a former McDonald's All-American, it was her third straight year ended by the injury. Maryland's 6-7 Essence Townsend went down with her first ACL tear in November. The torn ACLs for Terps guards Laurin Mincy and Brene Moseley were their second each, one in each knee for both. In December, Michigan State freshmen guard Branndais Agee suffered her torn ACL.

"It seems it's an epidemic around women's basketball," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. "There are a lot of similarities that way, but I think our programs are where they are because we have kids who fight every day."

The injuries have left both teams especially thin in the backcourt. In Saturday's opening-round 55-47 victory over Marist, the Spartans' three guards played all 40 minutes. In Maryland's 72-52 win over Quinnipiac, All-American Alyssa Thomas worked the first 38 minutes until the verdict was assured.

On Monday night, it's unlikely the Spartans will use their three guards as much as they must try to counter the Terps' frontcourt power.

Maryland ranks second in the nation in rebounding margin (plus 14.2 per game), a statistical measure in which Frese's teams have always excelled. But Saturday was ridiculous as 6-4 junior Alicia DeVaughn (17 rebounds) and 5-8 junior Katie Rutan (11 rebounds) collected their respective career highs, while Thomas (29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists), a 6-2 junior, and 6-3 senior Tianna Hawkins (23 points, 16 rebounds) delivered all-around brilliance.

Maryland will have a height advantage at four starting positions, but Michigan State has the ability to put a comparable-sized lineup on the floor. Its rotation reserves are 6-3 junior Annalise Pickrel (9.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and 6-3 sophomore Jasmine Hines (7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg). The Spartans' frontcourt starters are 6-4 sophomore Becca Mills (9.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and 6-1 senior Courtney Schiffauer (6.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

According to Merchant, facing ranked Penn State and Purdue three times each has prepared the Spartans for Maryland.

"You have to really have the power and the strength to get at their power and their strength," Merchant said. "I think we've been battle tested in that regard."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner