With seven new players and two players returning to the court after long injury layoffs, coach Brenda Frese said Maryland women’s basketball’s two exhibition games provided an opportunity for the Terps to get “comfortable” before the season begins.

Maryland beat Division II opponent California University of Pennsylvania 103-37 on Oct. 22 with 12 scorers contributing.

The Terps’ second exhibition game against East Carolina, the reigning American Athletic Conference champions, proved to be more challenging. The Pirates kept it close, but Maryland eventually prevailed on Sunday, 76-66.

Frese’s teams typically play their exhibition games against Division II opponents, but playing East Carolina showed the coach what her team needed to improve upon before the season began.

Here are three takeaways from Maryland’s pair of preseason matchups.

Riley Nelson creates a spark off the bench

In her first game in a Maryland uniform, Riley Nelson led the team in scoring against Cal U with 23 points off the bench. ESPN’s No. 18 recruit in the country played 40 minutes across both games.

Despite her nerves before the first game, Nelson added seven rebounds, four assists and three steals while shooting 70 percent from the field.

“I thought she was fearless,” Frese said after Maryland’s victory over Cal U. “She was aggressive, she played off the ball, on the ball, made really good decisions.”

[WNBA All-Star, Terps alum Brionna Jones joins Maryland women’s basketball’s coaching staff]

In the second exhibition game, Nelson was the leading scorer off the bench with eight points and added two steals and two rebounds. While the Pirates challenged Nelson, she could be a key contributor off the bench for the Terps in her first collegiate season.

The Terps’ starting lineup is experienced

Besides junior Shyanne Sellers, the Terps’ starting lineup to start the season is composed entirely of graduate students with Faith Masonius, Lavender Briggs, Jakia Brown-Turner and Brinae Alexander.

Sellers was the only starter to play more than 30 minutes in the first matchup, but the more experienced lineup played a major role in the Terps’ win against the Pirates.

Brown-Turner led the team with 15 points and was the only player to make more than one three-pointer against East Carolina. Briggs had the most rebounds on the team with seven and shot 5-for-7 from the field. Masonius, who only scored two points against Cal U, added 11 points, five assists and five rebounds against the Pirates.

The four graduate starters make Maryland’s experience “second to none,” Frese said on the team’s media day. Masonius, Briggs and Alexander were all a part of last year’s team, which made it to the Elite Eight, while transfer Brown-Turner has experience with winning conference titles after four years at NC State.

[Maryland needs Shyanne Sellers to be a star — her summer with USA basketball helped]

Maryland still needs to improve its rebounding
Last year’s Terps averaged 36.7 rebounds per game and were outrebounded by an average of 1.6 boards per game. But on the team’s media day, Frese predicted this year’s team will grab missed shots at a higher rate.

Against Cal U, Maryland finished with 61 rebounds, more than any game last season. Frese acknowledged that a performance against a Division II opponent wasn’t the perspective of how well the team rebounded, but added that the team has also demonstrated its ability to snag loose balls in practice.

However, the Terps’ rebounding took a step backward against the Pirates, who outrebounded them 41-33. Maryland made up for the lack of rebounds by forcing bad shots, especially in the fourth quarter, when East Carolina shot just 15.8 percent from the field.

With Maryland’s second and third games of the season coming up against top 10 opponents South Carolina and UConn, Frese’s team must figure out a way to avoid giving up so many possessions quickly.