ATLANTA (AP) — As the ACC tournament approaches, Maryland coach Brenda Frese likes how her team is playing defensively.
“It’s something we’ve really focused on,” she said. “When you talk about these last three games (that) we have to get ready for postseason, I thought we had a dominant defensive end.”
Alyssa Thomas had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Katie Rutan and Brionna Jones each added 15 points and No. 8 Maryland beat Georgia Tech 79-62 on Sunday.
The Terrapins (22-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) never trailed in winning their second straight game and sixth in the past seven.
Kaela Davis finished with 21 points as Georgia Tech lost its second in a row. The Yellow Jackets (17-10, 7-7 ACC) have dropped seven straight to Maryland and 11 of the past 13 meetings.
“I think that’s one of the best defensive efforts I’ve ever seen a Maryland team give,” Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph said. “Obviously we had a hard time with their inside game.”
Thomas gave Georgia Tech fits all afternoon.
After finishing the first half with nine points and seven rebounds, Thomas showed why she’s been selected the ACC player of the year over the past two seasons.
In the first minute of the second half, she grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up the floor, made a long bounce pass to Rutan, who bounced the ball back to a cutting Thomas for a fast-break layup and an 11-point lead.
Thomas made it 41-29 on Maryland’s next possession, driving the left side of the lane past two Georgia Tech defenders for an uncontested layup.
Thomas, a senior forward, moved past Crystal Langhorne with a school-record 60th double-double.
“In the beginning (of games), I’m looking to get inside to my teammates and get easy baskets,” Thomas said. “Once that starts opening up for me, that’s when I start taking some shots.”
Maryland, the nation’s fifth-best rebounding team, pulled down 49 boards — 20 on the offensive end. The Terrapins outscored Georgia Tech 60-26 in the paint, 18-2 on fast breaks and had a 21-3 advantage in assists.
“I thought our post players did a great job of sealing them and being aggressive and demanding the ball,” Frese said. “I thought our guards did a tremendous job of leading them into easy plays.”
Georgia Tech had few bright spots, even in the first half.
The Jackets went scoreless for a 5-minute stretch before Davis’ 12-footer from the left baseline made it 20-14.
Tyaunna Marshall’s 3 from the right key made it 27-19, but Thomas followed with a putback at the 6:12 mark on the ensuing possession for the game’s first 10-point lead.
Marshall finished with 11 points for Georgia Tech, which trailed by double digits throughout the second half.
“I think we were prepared for what they were going to run today,” Thomas said. “We knew everything that they were going to do. We were in the passing lanes. We made it really difficult for them to get into a flow.”
The Terrapins visit Boston College on Thursday before closing the regular season next Sunday against Virginia Tech — two teams that began the afternoon with a combined 5-22 ACC record.
But Frese knows that Maryland must stay vigilant, particularly after Virginia Tech upset No. 11 North Carolina on Sunday in Chapel Hill. The Terrapins are tied with North Carolina State for third place behind No. 2 and unbeaten Notre Dame and seventh-ranked Duke.
“I know it’s going to be wild,” Frese said. “I think for us it’s just finishing these last two games on the biggest high that we can and know that we’re going into Greensboro the most confident to put everything together and be ready.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)