On paper, the Maryland women’s basketball team’s 80-54 victory over George Washington on Friday wasn’t its best defensive game this season.
The No. 15 Terps allowed more points than their season best of 35, and the Colonials still managed to shoot over 35 percent. Maryland held Kennesaw State to 22 percent shooting on Nov. 24.
Coach Brenda Frese, however, was thrilled with the way the Terps limited the Colonials in every facet. Frese believes Friday was one of Maryland’s best defensive performances this season.
The Terps (9-2) forced the Colonials (3-7) into a season-high 20 turnovers, which Frese said was a big part of the game plan.
Another aspect Frese stressed was limiting George Washington from long range. The Colonials’ leading scorer, 6-foot-5 forward Kelli Prange, missed the contest with a concussion, which limited the visitors in the paint.
Knowing the Terps held the advantage down low, Frese enlisted her squad to force George Washington closer to the basket. The Colonials finished just 5-for-17 from behind the arc.
“We had a heavy emphasis on running them off the 3-point line, and I thought we did that for the first three quarters,” Frese said.
[Read more: Maryland women’s basketball topples George Washington, 80-54, for its seventh straight win]
Thirty-two percent of George Washington’s offense is from the 3-point line, “so, when you look at halftime, they were 1-for-7, that emphasis was big,” Frese said.
George Washington coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the Terps, especially in the first half, used their size and athleticism to stifle the Colonials.
Two of Maryland’s starting guards, Kaila Charles and Blair Watson, are at least six feet tall, while George Washington doesn’t have a guard listed taller than 5-foot-11. With its height advantage and speed, Maryland gave the Colonials little room to breathe.
“It’s not necessarily that they’re trapping all the time but they’re just always there,” Rizzotti said. “If you get tired and you get careless with the ball, or you have the wrong guy catch it … they take advantage of that.”
Frese said communication was important and helped establish a shutdown defense, often forcing George Washington into bad shots or giveaways.
As a result, Maryland scored 10 fast-break points and used its staunch defense to launch its offense.
“Our defense definitely brings our energy,” guard Ieshia Small said after Maryland’s win over Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday. “That’s the standard of where we need to play or how we need to play, just to keep the game moving and just keep playing Maryland basketball.”
The Terps forced at least 20 turnovers for the second consecutive game, and they haven’t allowed more than 60 points since defeating Miami, 79-71, on Nov. 26.
Maryland lost the two times it surrendered more than 90 points this season. The Terps’ recent defensive feats, however, suggest they’re moving in the right direction.
“They just come at you, and they don’t stop,” Rizzotti said. “It’s just relentless.”