Just when you think one of Maryland’s big two is about to run away with ACC Player of the Year, the other drops 26 and 17.
Those were Tianna Hawkins’ scoring and rebounding numbers Thursday night in the No. 10 Terps’ 82-62 victory over N.C. State (8-10, 0-6 ACC) at Comcast Center in College Park, Md. It was Hawkins’ night – she simply refused to be denied, as Maryland improved to 14-3 overall and a solid 5-1 in the ACC.
On the other hand, Alyssa Thomas, the player who was coming off a week where she was named espnW’s national player of the week, opened with 10 of the Terps’ first 14 points en route to 18 total, along with seven boards and six assists.
Not bad either.
Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said that in her opinion, Hawkins and Thomas are “playing as the two best players in the conference,” and she even dropped a Marissa Coleman/Kristi Toliver comparison.
That’s high praise, knowing Coleman and Toliver are two of the best Terps ever. When their names get brought up, you know things are going well. And after all, Brenda Frese’s crew has now beaten three straight ACC opponents by 20-plus. However, you can tell they are itching for a challenge after losing focus a little bit when their lead got big against the Wolfpack.
Maryland led, 34-23, at the half and got their lead up to its highest point of 31 at 10:02 remaining in the second, only to allow N.C. State to then go on a 12-0 run. The Terps got the lead back up to 28 with 3:54 remaining before the Wolfpack finished the game on an 11-3 run.
“I thought at times we chose to kind of play the score versus playing the game in terms of getting better and that’s something we have to continue to improve on,” Frese said.
Frese also called it “a solid win” though. Her Terps did take care of business against a weaker N.C. State team, and, at the end of the day, they have been winning comfortably as of late and their stars have been doing their jobs. In the past three 20-point wins, Tianna Hawkins and Alyssa Thomas have combined to average 40 points and 22 rebounds a game.
Meanwhile, the Maryland freshmen have stepped up when needed. Thursday night it was Tierney Pfirman who had the big game with 16 points and eight rebounds. She was 2 for 4 from downtown.
Postgame, Pfirman was asked if she gains confidence knowing how things tend to open up for her when teams focus on Hawkins and Thomas.
“It definitely makes it easier, but then again, when I can score like this it also helps them to get open looks,” Pfirman said. “They have to focus on me and the outside shooting and then we can play our game.”
All of Maryland’s threes came in the second half. They had three of them, with Chloe Pavlech adding one on her lone attempt.
N.C. State’s Marissa Kastanek was on the verge of getting hot from beyond the arc early. She had two threes in the span of 48 seconds to cap 8 consecutive points for her that erased an 8-0 Maryland lead to tie the game with 13:52 remaining in the first half. Kastanek ended up missing her next three attempts from downtown to finish 2 for 5 on the evening, as the Terps avoided getting into a shootout with the team that makes the second most threes per game in the ACC.
Instead, Maryland won this game in the paint, where they scored 51 points to N.C. State’s 22, and on fast breaks, where they outscored the Wolfpack 21-0.
The Terps also won the rebounding margin, 47-34, led by Hawkins’ 17, which was a season high for her. 12 of her boards came in the second half.
“It was a lot of work,” Hawkins said. “Coach challenged us at halftime – we weren’t going hard enough on the boards. So just coming out in the second half we were going hard on the offensive and defensive boards.”
Kastanek finished with 16 points to lead N.C. State. The Wolfpack’s leading scorer Kody Burke, who was averaging 15.4 points per game entering Thursday’s contest, was held to just six points. Burke did however lead her team with seven rebounds.
N.C. State outscored Maryland in bench points, 29-13. For the Terps, it was just one of those nights where the starters, particularly three of them, did the bulk of the scoring. Hawkins, Thomas and Pfirman combined for 60 of the team’s 82 points.
The Terps probably aren’t concerned with who does the scoring – the starters or the bench – as long as they get another person or two stepping up to help Hawkins and Thomas, whether that be Pfirman, Katie Rutan, Pavlech, or even Malina Howard. And don’t forget about Alicia DeVaughn, who hasn’t scored in double figures since the Hartford game, but is always there if you need a safe bucket – she leads the team in field goal percentage at 63.9 percent.
Up next, N.C. State hosts a No. 22/24 Florida State team (14-3 overall) that had a slip up on Jan. 10 against Wake Forest, but is a solid 4-2 in the conference, having blown out Miami when they were ranked and given Maryland their best battle yet at Comcast. With Clemson’s win over Wake Forest Thursday night, the Wolfpack are now the only winless team in ACC play and they hope to change that when they meet the Seminoles on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, Maryland will travel to Atlanta for a date at the same time with a Georgia Tech team that is really struggling at 8-9 overall and 1-5 in the ACC. In recent history, the Terps have played some tight ones against the Yellow Jackets, so we’ll see what this year’s lone matchup has in store.