Maryland, ND women to meet in regional final
Lynetta Kizer and her fellow Maryland seniors have followed this
path before. They hope it ends in a different place.
For the second time in four years, the Terrapins won an Atlantic
Coast Conference tournament championship, claimed a high seed in
the NCAA tournament and rolled to the Raleigh Regional finals.
No. 2 seed Maryland (31-4) meets top-seeded Notre Dame (33-3) on
Tuesday night with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
And while the Fighting Irish have played with a noticeable edge
throughout this postseason – determined to return to the national
championship game after losing at that stage a year ago – the
Terrapins say they have something to prove, too.
”I think we just bring it right back at them,” Maryland guard
Lauren Mincy said. ”We’re going to have to come out with a lot of
energy, and we have to play like there’s a chip on our shoulders
This is a familiar scenario for a Maryland team that won its
last ACC tournament in 2009, when Kizer was a freshman. Those Terps
advanced to the round of eight but were knocked off by Louisville
the last time a regional was held in Raleigh.
”I honestly didn’t believe I knew what was at stake, being so
young” that year, Kizer said. The current players ”are a group of
smart girls, so they know what’s at stake, and they know how hard
we’re going to have to play for each other.”
Without question, Notre Dame has played with a purpose this
The Irish have won all three games by double figures and are
coming off a 44-point semifinal beat down of St. Bonaventure that
matched the 22-year-old record for most lopsided victory in the
regional round of the tournament.
They’ve been fueled by their title-game loss to Texas A&M
last year – and could’ve had a rematch with the Aggies, had
Maryland not rallied from 18 points down to beat them in the other
The Irish players insist they weren’t disappointed by that.
”When the brackets came out, there was always the chance we
could face each other,” Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory said.
”We’ve used that game as motivation this year, and we’ve really
used it to keep us going. We want to get back to that game. I don’t
think there’s really any disappointment. All these teams are here
for a reason, and we’re all going to play hard.”
Notre Dame made it to the Final Four each of the previous three
times it reached the round of eight. Maryland is 3-4 in the
regional finals, and its only Final Four under coach Brenda Frese
came during its run to the 2006 national championship.
The team that claims a trip to Denver might be the one that more
effectively imposes its style.
Both teams certainly know how to score – the Irish rank second
nationally by averaging 79 points, with Maryland (78) two spots
behind them – but they do it in different ways.
The Irish’s strength is a four-guard starting lineup that rolls
up lots of assists and steals. Behind Big East player of the year
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame ranks fifth in points allowed (51.6),
fourth in field-goal percentage (47.6 percent), fourth in assists
(18) and second in steals (13).
The Terrapins – who have four starters who are 6 feet or taller
– prefer to pound the ball to their elite interior players and have
them bang the boards for second chances.
Maryland ranks second nationally with a rebounding margin of
plus-14, with Tianna Hawkins leading the nation by making nearly 63
percent of her shots and ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas doing
all the little things to keep the Terps rolling.
”We love to use our length and get on the glass, so we know
that gives a lot of teams a lot of trouble,” Thomas said. ”We’re
able to use that on defense and create havoc out there. We know we
have a height advantage on them, especially inside, so I know our
inside game’s going to be a huge (focus) for us” Tuesday.
Making up for that rebounding deficiency is nothing new in this
tournament for Notre Dame.
The only Division I team with a better rebounding margin than
Maryland is Liberty (plus-15.6), and the Irish routed the Flames by
31 points in the first round. Then they claimed an 11-point win in
the second round against California, which ranks third nationally
Devereaux Peters, the Irish’s only starter taller than
5-foot-11, leads her team with an average of 9.4 rebounds.
”We have to go back to the fundamentals, really focusing on
boxing out and pushing people back,” Peters said. ”It’s been a
problem we’ve had all year. I think we’ve improved on it during the
tournament. We’ve seen a lot of great teams that rebounded really
well, so hopefully we can do the same thing.”