Alyssa Thomas was her ACC Player of the Year self with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while seven combined threes from Katie Rutan, Chloe Pavlech and Tierney Pfirman, including one by Rutan that expanded the lead to six with 1:11 to go, helped fend off Florida State in a 71-64 Terrapin win Sunday afternoon at Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
With the win No. 8 Maryland (11-3 overall) improves to 2-1 in the ACC, which ties them with the No. 19/21 Seminoles (12-2 overall) in conference play. The Terps avoided dropping two straight and earned a much needed resume-boosting win, seeing as they had only defeated one ranked team previously and had missed out on an opportunity to beat another on Thursday when they traveled to North Carolina and lost, 60-57.
"It's a tough opening for us, but all the games are going to be like this in conference play," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said of her team coming away win one win after two games against ranked ACC opponents in the first true week of conference play. "And I think for us, when we play the way we know we can play, we're really good. It showed a lot - in terms of beating a team like Florida State, with the seniors, the veteran-led team that they have - to come out and get a win like this."
Florida State also lacked a defining win coming into this game, seeing as their only win over a ranked team came against a Vanderbilt team that is no longer ranked. They overcame a 40-24 halftime deficit to trail by just three three different times in the final five minutes of the game (at 4:36, 2:31 and 1:42 remaining). Rutan's three at 1:11, followed by a Tianna Hawkins layup 22 seconds later gave the Terps all the breathing room they would need.
Thomas was undoubtedly the player of the game, with a solid 6 assists and three steals to go with her scoring and rebounding numbers. She scored 14 of her 20 points in the first half, while Hawkins made a big, 12-point second half contribution after just five points in the first. Tianna also finished with 9 boards during a game that Washington Mystics general manager and head coach Mike Thibault attended. The Mystics possess the fourth overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft and could be considering Hawkins, who is a senior.
Rutan was held scoreless in the first half and was 0 for 3 from beyond the arc. She was 3 for 5 from long range in the second half, and it seemed like threes made the difference in carrying Maryland to victory. Pavlech opened the game with a three and was 2 for 4 from downtown on the afternoon, as she continues to prove she can contribute in that department even though her main role is being a floor general.
After the game, Seminole head coach Sue Semrau gave credit where credit was due.
"We have a lot of respect for what Alyssa Thomas has been able to do in this league," Semrau said. "I thought she didn't disappoint today. I also have to really credit the Maryland staff for the job that they've done with Hawkins. She's really become a player that takes a lot of pressure off of Thomas. I thought [Maryland's] guards played well, they stepped up and hit shots. It was a good fight. It was a great ACC road battle for us and we learned a lot."
Chelsea Davis and Alexa Deluzio led Florida State with 18 and 15 points respectively. Natasha Howard also chipped in with 11.
As a team, the Seminoles outscored Maryland in the paint (42-36), off turnovers (32-17), on fast breaks (12-8) and off the bench (22-9) but couldn't find a way to ever take the lead the entire game. In the end, they made a game of it though and did so in a very difficult environment to win as the road team.
"Our theme this year is fight," Deluzio said. "Every game in the ACC is going to be tough and it's not over until the second half is over. And we fought back. It was anybody's game at one point, but Maryland ended up playing very well down the stretch."
One category the Terps did dominate was rebounding, their favorite category to dominate. They won the battle on the boards, 48-30.
"That's what we do," said Frese of the rebounding. "We were disappointed with that edge against Carolina, only plus three. What makes this team so fun to coach is they respond. They've got big hearts and they're just as disappointed when they don't do something well and they know they can excel at it. It was really exciting to be able to watch us rebound the basketball."
Pfirman was the only Terp other than Thomas and Hawkins in double figures scoring with 12. She was 2 for 5 from downtown. On the year, Pfirman has the worst three-point shooting percentage on the team at 17.5 percent, making her a seemingly ineffective second three-point option behind Rutan thus far. But look for the Terps to continue letting her shoot the long ball in the hope that her first multiple three-point game Sunday sparks her into a hot streak.
All in all, the take away from this game is that Alyssa Thomas looked scary good. She had 13 offensive rebounds alone and would get out and run off those rebounds, sometimes scoring all by herself without setting up the offense. And when she wasn't dominating, Hawkins was there to step up.
Florida State will now host Wake Forest (8-6, 1-1 ACC) next Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. They face a Demon Deacons team that has won three straight since a loss at Virginia Tech on Dec. 22, and has most recently defeated N.C. State on Sunday. The Seminoles can also look forward to getting another shot at Maryland on Feb. 28 in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile the Terps stay in College Park, as they host Miami (12-2, 3-0 ACC), who, as of the week of Dec. 31, was receiving votes in both The Associated Press and USA TODAY/ESPN polls. The Hurricanes and Terps will square off at the same time as Wake Forest and FSU next Thursday. This is a Miami team that has beaten No. 9 Penn State, so no break in Maryland's schedule, as they try to avenge two losses to the Hurricanes a year ago.