ATLANTA — With a national title in 2006 and five straight NCAA appearances, the Terrapins want to keep building momentum as they prepare for March. Another step to achieving their goals was to beat Georgia Tech’s difficult full-court press.
"I really like how we’re coming together," coach Brenda Frese said. "I feel like our young kids and our veterans are really in sync. You hope for that, obviously, after 26 games. We just want to keep improving. We keep wanting to get better because good things are going to pay off for you."
Marissa Coleman scored 23 points and Lynetta Kizer had a career-high 22 points with 10 rebounds to help No. 9 Maryland win its sixth straight game in an 87-79 victory over the Yellow Jackets on Thursday night.
Coleman finished with eight rebounds, seven assists and made all 11 of her free throws for the Terrapins (22-4, 9-2 ACC), who have won nine of 10.
"Something we worked on in practice this week was breaking their press," Coleman said. "If you get the ball in the middle, there’s going to be open lanes for us to the basket. You saw that once we got a few easy buckets they backed off on it a little bit."
Georgia Tech (18-8, 5-6) has dropped two straight after winning four of five. The Yellow Jackets, who were coming off a 23-point loss Sunday at North Carolina, trailed by 23 at the 8:22 mark, but they went on a 27-11 run that ended on Brigitte Ardossi’s two free throws with 44 seconds remaining.
Despite leading the nation with 14 steals per game, Georgia Tech was forced to abandon its press because the Terrapins moved the ball efficiently down the floor and exposed open passing lanes once they set up their half-court offense.
"We knew we couldn’t put two people on one because they do such a great job of finding the open person," Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph said. "So we were playing a different defense than we usually do, and that’s a compliment to them."
With Maryland leading 82-67, Kristi Toliver left the game briefly after getting hit in the abdomen, but the ACC’s third-leading scorer returned for the final 2:51 after Georgia Tech closed the score to 84-71. She finished with 11 points, 6.6 under her average, after going just 1-for-7 on 3-point attempts.
"She bounced back," Frese said. "We needed all our free-throw shooters out there at the end of the game."
Coleman, who played with Toliver on Maryland’s 2006 national championship team, needs 24 points to become the seventh ACC player with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career.
Kizer, a 6-foot-4 freshman center, surpassed her single-game mark by four points.
"The game is starting to slow down for me," she said. "It’s getting a little easier (to adjust) as the season goes on."
Georgia Tech, which had won four of its past five in Atlanta against the Terrapins, dropped to 12-2 at home this season. Alex Montgomery had 19 points and six assists to lead the Jackets. Deja Foster scored 17 and pulled down nine rebounds.
Joseph believes with three games left in the regular season before the ACC tournament March 5-8 in Greensboro, N.C., that Georgia Tech still has a good chance to win 20 games and make the NCAA field of 64 for the third straight year.
"I’m really proud of how this group battled back," Joseph said. "There was a turning point. They could’ve quit. We continued to go after them and make shots. That’s going to bode well for us down the road."