Eyeing the past, Maryland hosts West Virginia in NCAAs
Maryland guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough celebrates with teammates after a first-round game against Bucknell in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament in College Park, Md., Friday, March 17, 2017. Walker-Kimbrough contributed a game-high 28 points to Maryland’s 103-61 win. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brionna Jones remembers walking off the court, inconsolable after Maryland’s premature exit from the NCAA Tournament.
Jones was a junior last year when the Terrapins were striving to make a third straight appearance in the Final Four. After breezing to victory in the opening round, Maryland stumbled through a 74-65 upset loss at home against Washington.
‘I think the biggest memory I have was after the game was over, knowing this was our seniors’ last game after all the hard work they put into the program,’ Jones recalled. ‘Having it end like that was the most disappointing part for me.’
Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough are the senior leaders on this year’s squad, and the underclassmen on this team have taken it upon themselves to make sure history does not repeat itself Sunday when the third-seeded Terps (31-2) host No. 6 seed West Virginia (24-10) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sitting next to Jones and Walker-Kimbrough on Saturday, Maryland freshman Destiny Slocum said, ‘They talk about it all the time, the way they felt after the game. There’s no way I want these two amazing players to go out that way. I think it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to get them what they deserve.’
Terps coach Brenda Frese won’t be pressed to make a motivational speech before the game, because every player on the roster knows what happened to the four seniors on last year’s team.
‘I know a little piece of me dedicates this season to them,’ Walker-Kimbrough said.
‘There’s no reason to bring up last year’s game. It’s fresh in the minds of the returning players,’ Frese said. ‘The thing I remind them is, every round you advance it gets that much harder. What you did in the last game isn’t enough to be able to advance to the Sweet 16.’
Maryland is coming off a 103-61 rout of Bucknell, a team lesser a resume than West Virginia , which entered the NCAA Tournament coming off a win over No. 2 Baylor.
‘We go from the Patriot League champs to the Big 12 champs,’ Frese said.
Some things to know about the West Virginia-Maryland matchup:
SHOOTS AND SCORES: West Virginia guard Tynice Martin scored 26 points in the Mountaineers’ 75-62 first-round win over Elon.
The sophomore is averaging 18.9 points, and her performance Friday made her the third-quickest Mountaineer to reach 1,000 career points.
‘Great player, great scorer,’ Walker-Kimbrough said of Martin.
RECORD PACE: Jones is 28 points away from breaking the school record of points in a season, set in 1988-89 by Vicky Bullett.
Jones has 659 points, including 25 in the win over Bucknell.
‘You can see every time she steps out on the floor she wants to make a difference, whether it’s scoring or rebounding,’ Frese said.
Jones is also 28 rebounds short of the single-season school record (381), set by Alyssa Thomas in 2013-14.
IMPROVEMENT NEEDED: West Virginia struggled against Elon before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
‘We are going to have to play whole lot better or we’re not going to be there with (Maryland),’ coach Mike Carey said. ‘If we come out and stay focused and do the things I know we can do, it will be a great game.’
WE’RE NO. 3: Big Ten champion Maryland appears to have moved on from the disappointment of being named a No. 3 seed, but Carey isn’t so sure.
‘They’re a great team and they’re mad,’ Carey said. ‘They think they should have been a two seed, and I think they should have been also.’
ROLE PLAYERS: Martin is the star, but West Virginia also gets scoring from Teana Muldrow and 6-foot-5 center Lanay Montgomery.
‘Muldrow can pick and pop and Montgomery can be really strong inside,’ Frese said. ‘All of them play with an extreme level of confidence.’