BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Alyssa Thomas was nursing an injured hand last season and had to watch as then-No. 8 Maryland lost 75-69 on its homecourt to Virginia Tech, the same undermanned Hokies team that won only six other games all season.
She left no doubt what her presence might have meant in her first crack at the Hokies on Sunday.
The reigning ACC player of the year had 26 points, a career-best 18 rebounds, six assists and three blocks, leading the No. 10 Terrapins to a fast start and a dominating performance throughout in a 74-45 victory against the Hokies.
“Today was all about pride for us and just last year, we went out and didn’t play the way we want to play against them,” Thomas said. “Today was to kind of let them know we are Maryland.”
The Terrapins (13-3, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the ninth time in 10 games. Maryland went ahead by double figures on three free throws by Katie Rutan 8:23 before halftime and the Hokies never got within single digits again.
Thomas had 15 points and 11 rebounds by halftime, and played all but three minutes despite the blowout.
“Obviously to watch A.T. tonight just showed what makes her special,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said, adding that it’s a luxury for her to be able to plug the 6-foot-2 Thomas in at any position and know the ball and team are in good hands.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen her,” Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff said. “She’s a power forward-sized guard.”
Uju Ugoka scored 12 points and Monet Tellier had 11 for Virginia Tech (7-9, 1-4), which lost its fourth straight.
Thomas and the Terps were focused from the start, with Thomas scoring the game’s first six points. Maryland also blocked several shots in the early going, and that surely contributed greatly to Virginia Tech’s shooting woes.
The Hokies missed 12 of their first 14 shots and shot 27.9 percent (19-68) overall.
“We just focused on making shots tough for them,” Thomas said.
The Terps’ size remained a factor the rest of the way.
“It just kind of made us alter our shots just a little bit, just enough so that they would bounce out,” Tellier said. She scored 31 in the victory at College Park, Md., last season, but missed 13 of 17 shots in the rematch.
Virginia Tech also went the first five minutes before scoring on Porschia Hadley’s putback.
Leading just 15-9 after 12 minutes, Maryland used a 13-3 run to open its lead to 28-12. Tierney Pfirman started it with a 3-pointer, Rutan hit three free throws and Tianna Hawkins finished it with a jumper.
Hawkins scored 14 for Maryland, and Rutan and Pfirman each had 11.
The Terps’ lead was 37-22 at halftime, and after Virginia Tech closed to within 43-31 with 15 minutes to go, Malina Howard hit a jumper from the free throw line, Pfirman had a three-point play and Howard followed a Hokies turnover with a 3-pointer, pushing the lead back to 51-31, and all suspense was gone.
The Hokies, who won 75-69 at then-No. 8 Maryland last season, forced 22 turnovers, but turned them into just 12 points, and had 18 offensive rebounds, but just six second-chance points.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)