Terps un­veil ban­ner, eye­ing more

Walker-Kim­brough, sti­fling de­fense and new faces lead de­fend­ing Big Ten champs

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Ro­man Stubbs

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.”

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