Ter­rap­ins’ suc­cess hinges on loss

Team en­ters ACC tourney on 7-1 roll af­ter Va. Tech game

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY MIKE DE­FABO

Stand­ing in a back room at Com­cast Cen­ter af­ter the Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball team’s most dis­heart­en­ing loss of the sea­son to un­ranked Virginia Tech, re­porters tapped their watches anx­iously and stared at the empty podium at the front of the room.

Nearly 30 min­utes had passed since the end of the Jan. 26 game, but coach Brenda Frese re­mained in the locker room with her play­ers in­stead in front of a mi­cro­phone, leav­ing so many ques­tions unan­swered.

Ques­tions about late-game freethrow shoot­ing and costly turnovers were on re­porters’ notepads. But more press­ing was one big-picture ques­tion: Who are the 2012 Terps and how good can they be?

Early in­di­ca­tions were promis­ing af­ter Mary­land be­gan the sea­son 16-0, the best start since the 2006 Terps team that won the na­tional cham­pi­onship. But now, half­way through its ACC sched­ule, the team was at a cross­roads af­ter los­ing three out of five, in­clud­ing two in a row.

Fi­nally, Frese and the team emerged. Tak­ing a seat be­hind the mi­cro­phone, se­nior cen­ter Lynetta Kizer held back the tears from her red­dened eyes and laid it on the line: “This is a defin­ing mo­ment tonight. We’ve got to turn it around from here and play Mary­land bas­ket­ball.”

Mary­land (25-4, 14-4 ACC) re­sponded by win­ning seven of its final eight games. The push helped the Terps claim the third seed and a firstround bye in the ACC tour­na­ment this week­end in Greens­boro, N.C. Mary­land will play Fri­day night against the win­ner of Thurs­day’s Virginia-bos­ton Col­lege con­test.

“Who­ever we face in that first game is go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult matchup,” Frese said this week on a tele­con­fer­ence. “You’ve got to play 40 min­utes like it could po­ten­tially be your last game. If you’re lucky and for­tu­nate enough to ad­vance, you’ve got to have the same men­tal­ity in the semis and then the cham­pi­onship.”

The Terps likely will have to go through No. 5 Duke and No. 7 Mi­ami if they are to hoist the ACC tro­phy.

Mi­ami swept Mary­land in both meet­ings this sea­son. The 76-74 nail­biter on Feb. 12 was Mary­land’s lone loss in the sec­ond half of the ACC sched­ule. A week later, Mary­land handed Duke its only ACC loss in an­other one-bas­ket decision, 63-61.

“It re­minds me of the year in 2006 when we had us, Duke and Carolina who were bat­tling it out,” Frese said. “We didn’t even make it to the cham­pi­onship game or win an ACC ti­tle and then you go out and win a na­tional cham­pi­onship. When you have Duke and Mi­ami and us, three top 10 teams, you’re go­ing to be in bat­tles ev­ery night in con­fer­ence play.”

Sopho­more for­ward Alyssa Thomas, who Thurs­day was named ACC Player of the Year, and sec­ond team ALL-ACC sopho­more for­ward Tianna Hawkins lead the Terps into the post­sea­son.

Thomas was tied for first in points per game in the ACC this sea­son with 16.7, and Hawkins led the con­fer­ence in re­bound­ing with 9.5 per game.

Earn­ing ALL-ACC hon­or­able men­tion were sopho­more guard Lau­rin Mincy and Kizer.

Right on time and full of con­fi­dence head­ing into the ACC tour­na­ment, Frese echoed Kizer’s sen­ti­ment from a month ear­lier. She said play­ing with­out Thomas in the Virginia Tech loss was the “defin­ing point of the sea­son.”

“You re­ally saw our team come to­gether and take own­er­ship for that game and for that loss. I think our team kind of grew up with­out hav­ing Alyssa in that game,” Frese said. “I re­ally think that game is what’s mo­ti­vated this team in terms of the big­ger picture and where they wanted to get to.”

The Ge­orge­town Hoyas are look­ing for­ward to the Big East women’s tour­na­ment with de­ter­mi­na­tion de­spite a tough 54-45 loss to St. John’s on Mon­day in their reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale.

“If you live in the past,” se­nior Rubylee Wright said, “you can’t see the fu­ture. We’re just go­ing to keep mov­ing for­ward and think about what’s next.”

With the Big East tour­na­ment com­ing this week­end, seven se­niors look to post­sea­son play as a chance to wear the blue-and-gray uni­form a bit longer. A win no longer sim­ply im­proves the team’s record. It prom­ises more play­ing time.

As a fresh­man in 2009, Tia Magee — now a se­nior — was part of a young squad that saw its con­fer­ence tour­na­ment run end in the first round with a 70-45 loss to Se­ton Hall.

The fol­low­ing sea­son, not a fan was left sit­ting as third-seeded Ge­orge­town headed into dou­ble over­time with sixth­seeded Rut­gers in the tour­na­ment quar­ter­fi­nals. The Scar­let Knights, how­ever, sent them home in 63-56 fin­ish.

The Hoyas last sea­son played in the quar­ter­fi­nals against top-ranked Con­necti­cut. But they fell to the Huskies 5943. Con­necti­cut went on to elim­i­nate Ge­orge­town from the NCAA tour­na­ment as well, es­cap­ing with a 68-63 win in the Sweet 16.

This year, the Hoyas are out for re­demp­tion as tour­na­ment play opens Fri­day in Hart­ford, Conn. Hav­ing se­cured a dou­ble bye as the fourth seed with an 11-5 league record (22-7 over­all), the Hoyas play their first game Sun­day at noon.

As the ex­cite­ment mounts and the tour­na­ment draws near, Ge­orge­town’s se­niors re­mem­bered what it’s like to play in the post­sea­son for the first time. Now re­turn­ing as vet­er­ans, they shared Big East ex­pe­ri­ences with younger teammates.

“This is my last go-around,” Magee

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“This is my last go-around,” Ge­orge­town se­nior Tia Magee said of the Big East tour­na­ment. “I’m hav­ing a lot of self-talk about the things that I have to do. But [I have also been] talk­ing to the younger girls and try­ing to get them pre­pared.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mary­land cen­ter Lynetta Kizer says a loss in Jan­uary to Virginia Tech turned the Terps around. The team went on a 7-1 run and en­ters the ACC tour­na­ment as the third seed.

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