Terps unveil banner, eyeing more
Walker-Kimbrough, stifling defense and new faces lead defending Big Ten champs
COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland women’s basketball team gathered at half court of the Xfinity Center shortly before tipoff of Sunday’s season opener against UMass-Lowell. The returning players cupped their hands and accepted Big Ten Conference championship rings from last season, then watched as a banner was unveiled in the rafters to commemorate the feat.
Maryland’s freshman class, considered one of the best in the country, cheered for their older teammates during the short ceremony. The rookies are hoping to not just help the Terps’ veteran core bring home a third straight Big Ten championship this season, but potentially so much more.
“I know in our locker room, we have even bigger goals in terms of how we want to finish this season,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.
This team has national championship ambitions, and the drive toward that goal began with a 100-44 rout of the River Hawks on Sunday. Senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough finished with 14 points and three assists for the sixth-ranked Terps (1-0), who shot 47 percent from the field and showed little of the rust that is usual for teams on the first day of the season.
“One of our game goals today was to just play Maryland basketball, to defend, re- bound and run,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “I thought we did a good job early speeding them up.”
Walker-Kimbrough, considered the centerpiece of a team that also returns key veterans Brionna Jones (Aberdeen) and junior guard Kristen Confroy, picked up where she left off from a junior season in which she averaged 19.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. Walker-Kimbrough scored 10 of her 14 in the first half, when Maryland built a 57-16 lead largely off its speed and length on the defensive end.
But while Walker-Kimbrough spearheaded that effort — Maryland finished with 26 steals and scored 48 points off 34 turnovers by UMass-Lowell — she had plenty of help from the touted freshmen. That included guards Kaila Charles (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Destiny Slocum (15 points, six assists), both of whom made their first career starts Sunday. After Maryland opened the game on a 17-3 run, Charles and Slocum showed speed in the backcourt on one particular sequence, each recording back-to-back steals that led to points on the other end and pushed the lead to 25-5. Maryland led 34-5 after the first quarter.
“We’re all going out there and playing the game we know,” Slocum said. “I’d say today was my day, but it could be someone else’s tomorrow. So I’d say for our freshmen class, it could be anybody.”
On a day when Frese honored her veterans for past accomplishments, she also looked forward to a bright future. Alongside Maryland’s new Big Ten title banner is another honoring last season’s trip to the NCAA second round, where Maryland was upset by Washington. Walker-Kimbrough couldn’t stop looking at it as her team’s pregame ceremony began Sunday.
“I remember how I felt after that game,” she said. “That’s something I don’t want our freshmen or the rest of our team to feel this year.”