COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland had just scored 88 points, and all the Terrapins wanted to talk about was their defense.
For good reason. Because if No. 9 Maryland wants to be playing deep into March, the focus must be more on preventing baskets than making them.
Taking charge at the outset by repeatedly forcing neighboring rival George Washington into turnovers and missed shots, the Terrapins cruised to an 88-54 victory Wednesday night.
“I liked how we set the tone early, especially with our defense,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “We forced about 10 turnovers in that first quarter and were really locked in.”
The Terrapins (4-1) wasted no time in getting the jump on the youthful Colonials, taking the lead for good five seconds after the opening tip on a jumper by Taylor Mikesell. GW committed five turnovers in the opening 3½ minutes while falling behind 11-2.
Frese waited nearly 5½ minutes before making her first substitution.
“They were really connected,” Frese said. “You could see it on the defensive end, their energy and communication. So if it’s not broke, there’s nothing to fix. Just a phenomenal job of setting the tone early.”
GW had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, made only two baskets and trailed 23-7 after the opening 10 minutes.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what our identity is going to be,” Frese said.
The answer, for now, is a team that relies first on its play on the defensive end of the court.
“In the first quarter you saw us get a lot of points off steals and in transition,” Mikesell said. “Defense is definitely going to set the tone for us going forward.”
Mikesell scored 19 points and Shakira Austin had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Terrapins (4-1), who have won three straight since falling at home to South Carolina, now the fifth-ranked team in the nation.
Mikesell, a sophomore guard, went scoreless against the Gamecocks but has totaled 52 points during the Terrapins’ three-game streak.
“Just playing the game how it’s supposed to be played and then focusing on both ends of the court,” said Mikesell, who went 7 for 11 from the field and sank five 3-pointers.
With a starting lineup that includes two freshmen and a pair of sophomores, the rebuilding Colonials (2-3) were ill-equipped to handle an experienced Maryland team that returned all five starters from a squad that went 29-5 last season.
“We talked about having a handicap when you come in here because of their ranking and their size and they’re playing at home,” GW coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It can imposing and difficult for us to simulate in practice.”
Following their miserable start, the Colonials used two straight 3-pointers by Tori Hyduke get to 33-21. Maryland answered with an 11-0 run that featured 3-pointers by Mikesell and Faith Masonius, along with a three-point play by Ashley Owusu.
The Terps led 46-24 at halftime and owned a 29-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Hyduke played 34 minutes and led GW with 12 points, all of them on shots from beyond the arc.
George Washington: The Colonials simply aren’t ready for this kind of competition in this kind of venue.
Maryland: After losing to South Carolina and squeezing past James Madison, Maryland is starting to show the balance and swagger that makes them the favorite to win the Big Ten. Five players scored in double figures.
Maryland leads the series 8-1, including a 69-33 blowout last year in Washington.
ALMOST BATTING 1,000
Maryland senior Stephanie Jones scored 12 points and now stands just seven short of being the 24th Maryland player to reach the 1,000-point mark.
The 6-foot-2 forward was honored before the game for collecting her 500th rebound in the season opener.
George Washington hosts Georgetown on Sunday afternoon.
Maryland closes a three-game homestand Sunday against Quinnipiac.
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