Written by Todd Carton
Playing on the road in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than a decade, the Maryland women’ basketball team rolled to a surprisingly easy 77-57 win over the Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers. And while the 77 points looks like a return toward the scoring levels fans are accustomed to seeing from the Terps, it was tenacious defense and dominating rebounding – the same formula the Terps used in their seven game win streak that played the crucial roles in this win.
As they have done with so many other top players this season, Maryland negated not only Bella Alarie, the Ivy League Player of the Year, but also Leslie Robinson, the player Princeton coach Courtney Banghardt calls the heart of her team. Alarie scored three baskets late in the first half but didn’t score again until three minutes remained in the third quarter and the Terps had extended their lead to 15. For the game, Maryland held Princeton to just 37.7 percent shooting and just 20 percent from behind the arc.
The Terps finished with a 43-25 edge on the boards and when the teams went to their benches for the under five minute timeout in the fourth quarter, Maryland had 16 offensive rebounds and Princeton had only 21 total rebounds. Breanna Fraser led Maryland with 11 rebounds followed by eight by Christinaki.
Meanwhile, after a slow start that included a missed open layup and two early turnovers, Maryland star Kaila Charles settled down to lead the Terrapins with 20 points on 8-15 shooting. Fortunately for the Terps, junior transfer guard Eleanna Christinaki and senior Kristen Confroy, who both shot 50 percent from the floor and finished with 16 and 14 points respectively, steadied the ship early. Maryland took a 3-2 lead on Christinaki’s long range jumper with 8:52 to play in the first quarter and the Terps never looked back.
With the win, the Terrapins advance to the second round Sunday afternoon where they will face the fourth seeded and host school, the NC State Wolfpack 62-35 winners over Elon in their first round game. Chelsea Nelson leads the Wolfpack in scoring at 13.4 points per game and rebounding where she pulls down 9.6 per contest. NC State’s second leading scorer is Kiara Leslie who should be familiar to Terps fans. Leslie played two years at Maryland before graduating early and returning to her home town of Raleigh. Leslie scored a team high 13 in State’s first round win.
Like Maryland, NC State has suffered some injuries and plays essentially a seven player rotation that, in addition to Leslie and Nelson features 6’5” Akela Maize and a Canadian sharpshooter Aislynn ‘Ace” Konig. Maize and Konig are the both average a tad more than 10 points per game. Maize adds 5.5 rebounds for a Wolfpack squad that rebounds by committee and averages 10 more rebounds per game than their opponents. They struggle to score efficiently but are a sound defensive squad. During the season, NC State lost to Rutgers, Virginia and Miami – each of whom, in turn, lost to Maryland. The tip off time for Sunday’s game remains to be announced.
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