A contrast of styles
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At first glance, it would seem like Oregon State, seeded fourth in the Fort Wayne region, would be best served slowing things down in the Beavers’ Sweet 16 matchup against the Maryland Terrapins.
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After all, Maryland is 32nd in the country in possessions per 40 minutes. Oregon State? 314th.
But Maryland coach Brenda Frese doesn’t expect the Beavers to manage to alter the game’s pace and flow, and her confidence is understandable: Maryland has now won 19 in a row, 17 through the Big Ten championship, two more here in the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s who we are,” Frese told High Post Hoops. “We defend, rebound and run. So I know Oregon State likes to kind of have more of a controlled pace and kind of set things up. And for us, we’re not going to allow that transition defense to take place. We’re going to get up and down the court and really use the depth that we have on our rosters to be able to wear them out.”
What’s interesting about this Maryland team, beyond their usual offensive depth and skill, is just how their defense manifests itself.
Maryland is an excellent transition defense team. Their 0.834 points per possession in transition, per Synergy, ranks a solid 85th in Division I. But it pales in comparison to their ability in the halfcourt set, with a 0.639 points per possession in those opportunities, good for either in the country.
Interestingly, the same is true on the offensive end. Maryland is an elite overall offensive team, 57th in transition. But in the halfcourt? That ranking jumps to 19th.
So playing Maryland’s game favors Maryland. But so does playing Oregon State’s game, it would appear.
That said, the Beavers are an extremely difficult out in this tournament. Mikayla Pivec is playing for her collegiate career’s life, and it shows in her first two games. Frese has a plan of attack to slow her down, but acknowledged it won’t be easy.
“Pivec’s a huge piece,” Frese said. “She’s what makes them go at Oregon State. And obviously, we would start with our defensive stopper, who was on the Big 10 All Defensive team, Blair Watson. We would match her up initially to be able to find her. But she would be just making her life difficult. Her catches, putting a lot of pressure on her, ball pressure, so she’s not able to orchestrate what she’s able to do for Oregon State on the offense end. She’s a tall task, man. She’s extremely talented.”
Ultimately, Kaila Charles could be the difference for the Terrapins, as she has been for much of the season. In Frese’s mind, Charles is the given, something that frees her up to plan around what she knows she’ll get from her senior leader.
“To be able to have that consistency factor, and all four years for Kaila, all she’s done is win. And to be able to go into the NCAA tournament where you do have that blend of your senior roster, but you have some very impactful freshmen for us that are going through it for the first time. So she really settles us in. She’s that calming effect on the floor for us. She makes winning plays and kind of just keeps everybody together to continue to keep making winning plays for us.”
The same, of course, can be said of Pivec. Whatever happens, it won’t be a matchup anyone soon forgets. The winner gets Louisville or Mississippi State, and our preview is here.
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