Following an up-and-down 68-44 victory over Morgan State on Friday, during which Maryland rebounded from a 28-point first half to pull away late behind a 57.7 second-half shooting percentage, coach Brenda Frese said the team needed to work on playing a full 40-minute game.
Then after a 58-51 win over Georgia on Saturday, during which Maryland shot an ice-cold 25 percent after a first-half 56.5 percent shooting effort, Frese harped on the same inconsistencies between halves.
It doesn’t seem to have taken hold. After leading Georgia Tech by 20 at halftime Thursday, the Terps found themselves clinging to a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Maryland eventually triumphed over Georgia Tech, 67-54, behind a 20-10 fourth-quarter burst, but for the third contest in a row, the Terps failed to put together a complete game.
“We knew Georgia Tech was going to come out of the locker room. They’re a second-half team,” Frese said. “They dictated in the third quarter, but I’m proud of our poise and composure.”
The Yellow Jackets had 18 points at halftime and put up 26 points in the third quarter. Their offensive explosion came as the result of a rash of turnovers committed by Maryland — Frese’s squad committed eight turnovers in the third quarter, including some in the backcourt, leading to seven points the other way.
But until then, it was all Terps.
Maryland held Georgia Tech to just 21.4 percent shooting and 0-for-4 from three-point range in the first quarter, and the Terps’ relentless pressure powered them to an 18-6 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
Maryland then flew out of the second quarter on a 7-2 run, and, after guard Kaila Charles threaded a cross-court feed to forward Stephanie Jones, Georgia Tech burned a timeout trailing 25-8 midway through the second quarter.
The Yellow Jackets were held to just 29.6 percent in the first half, and Maryland shot an improved 9-of-15 from the floor in the second quarter to lead 38-18 at the break.
“We were ready to start,” Frese said. “Defensively, it was one of our best halves that we’ve had all season.”
Guard Taylor Mikesell carried the torch early on, scoring 15 first-half points on 3-of-8 from deep. But the blueprint for the Terps success came from their aggressiveness down low, and they outscored the Yellow Jackets 20-8 in the paint.
Following its sudden collapse, Maryland restored order in the fourth quarter thanks to Charles, who went on a personal 11-0 run to give her team a 58-46 cushion after the Yellow Jackets came within one point.
“[Frese] challenged us to play harder and not let them come on our court and get the win,” Charles said. “So I was being more aggressive, and my teammates were finding me.”
Mikesell joked the key to the team’s turnaround was to “give Kaila the ball and get a stop on defense.”
While a bit tongue-in-cheek, the plan was a success, and Charles finished with a team-high 23 points on 7-of-14 from the field, 13 of which came in the last 10 minutes.
But after failing to play a complete game for the third time in three contests, the Terps must figure out how to adjust to poor stretches before they extend to entire quarters. Charles’ heroics helped the team avoid an utter collapse, but the third period served as another lapse Frese can harp on as the team continues its preparation for Big Ten play.
“We adjusted as we got comfortable,” Frese said, “but we’ve got to be able to get more comfortable sooner.”