By the end of the Maryland women’s basketball team’s exhibition Wednesday, as the possibility Bluefield State could go scoreless in the second half increased, the Xfinity Center crowd rooted for the Big Blues.
Fans groaned when their shots clanged off the rim or a Terp corralled a steal. By the time the clock hit zero, the sympathy hadn’t helped.
Maryland shut out Bluefield State for the final two quarters and finished on a 78-0 run. After the first two possessions, Bluefield State led, 3-2, but it didn’t take long for the Terps to storm back for a 146-17 win.
The Big Blues made six field goals, five of which where 3-pointers.
“This is the start of something super special — that’s the way it feels,” freshman guard Destiny Slocum said. “Everything’s falling into place.”
The Terps shot 64 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three-point range. Maryland had 82 points in the paint, boosted by fast-break layups after one of its 35 steals.
Two of those points in the paint came at the buzzer entering halftime on a putback from freshman center Jenna Staiti. The shot gave the Terps a 74-17 lead at the break, and Staiti was mobbed by three of her teammates, who hit her with towels as she tried to walk to the locker room.
“I loved our energy and our enthusiasm,” coach Brenda Frese said. “[We] didn’t play the scoreboard, but really competed.”
Center Brionna Jones scored the Terps’ first four points from under the basket and ended up one of the seven Maryland players in double figures.
Slocum finished with nine points and nine assists, showing her prowess early and often. The Meridian, Idaho, native grabbed a rebound with about six-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter and led the fast break before dishing a no-look pass to freshman guard Blair Watson for the layup.
“The growth here is amazing,” Slocum said. “We’re kind of just getting each other, now.”
Then, about a minute later, Slocum swished a 3-pointer and stole a pass after the Blues’ inbound. She didn’t hit the ensuing layup, but Watson was there to clean it up.
Guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough kicked off her senior year with 18 points, four steals and six rebounds in 13 minutes. She did not enter the game in the fourth quarter.
That left more action for Watson, who took over in the game’s latter stages. Thirteen of her game-high 29 points came in the fourth quarter and she finished with a double-double on 10 rebounds, which also led all players.
“We were kind of following her lead a little bit today,” Walker-Kimbrough said.
Several of Watson’s boards came off her own misses. She had six assists and made five three-pointers.
“She just played free,” Frese said. “She gave a phenomenal effort on both ends of the floor … shooting the three for her is like shooting a layup.”
Watson, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum this summer and didn’t play in the Terps’ preseason trip to Italy, said she wanted to announce “that [she’s] back” Wednesday, which Walker-Kimbrough responded to with an enthusiastic, “Ayeee.”
Frese also had little to complain about in the Terps’ 2016 debut. She wasn’t pleased with her team’s free throw shooting percentage (19-for-32), but she commended her team’s effort.
“Tonight was a really good tune-up for us,” Frese said. “We recognize the fact that the competition is going to improve for us, but I just loved our energy tonight.”