Maryland ready to face Florida Gulf Coast’s unique style

Katie Benzan — who knows a thing or two about shooting 3-pointers — can appreciate the way Maryland’s next opponent plays.

That would be Florida Gulf Coast, the team with “Raining Threes” as its motto.

“Their style of play looks pretty fun,” Benzan said. “Just launch from 3 and go from there. And it’s definitely unique. Not many teams play that way. We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing them.”

The fourth-seeded Terrapins face 12th-seeded FGCU on Sunday with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line. The game will feature two of the top five players on the career list in 3-pointers. Benzan is fifth, and Florida Gulf Coast’s Kendall Spray is fourth.

FGCU (30-2) beat Virginia Tech 84-81 in the first round. That game was every bit the contrast in styles that was expected. The Eagles have nobody taller than 6-foot-1 on their roster, and they lead the nation in 3-point attempts. FGCU allowed 42 points to Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech’s 6-foot-6 star, but the Eagles shot 15 of 38 from beyond the arc.

“We practice 3s every day. Half of the practice is shooting 3s,” FGCU’s Tishara Morehouse said. ”So we have a lot of confidence when it comes to shooting, no doubt.”

Teams at all levels of basketball have become more in tune with an analytics-approved style that’s heavy on 3-pointers and shots at the rim, but the Eagles are unique in other ways.

“I think FGCU really reminds us of Villanova, just playing five guards and just spreading the floor really well,” Benzan said. “It’s different from any team we’ve played before, and I think we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Maryland beat Villanova 88-67 in November, even though the Wildcats went 13 of 27 from 3-point range. FGCU averages well over 30 attempts per game, and Maryland coach Brenda Frese says her team needs to be prepared for the fact that the Eagles may make quite a few.

“I think they can’t get deflated by the number of 3s they take, and obviously we need to make it difficult for them from the 3-point line,” Frese said. “But for us it’s just continuing to play the right way, within our own offense.”

TEMPO

As a smaller team led by the ultra-quick Morehouse, FGCU can get up and down the court quickly. Maryland is also comfortable playing at a fast pace, as it showed in a 102-71 win over Delaware in the first round.

“They’re one of the best teams in transition in college basketball, and they run on every possession,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “So I’m sure they will be running tomorrow. We’re going to have to have a good effort in defensive transition to try to get them to have to run plays. We don’t want them to be running by us and getting behind us for easy baskets.”

MATCHUP ISSUE

Maryland doesn’t have anyone as imposing inside as Kitley, but 6-foot-3, but Angel Reese is someone the Eagles will need to deal with.

“She’s shown all season long that she wants that responsibility, and she’s obviously the presence we need,” Frese said.

FGCU didn’t do much to slow Kitley on Friday, but the Eagles did begin doubling her somewhat effectively at the end.

“We’re going to have to do some of the same things,” Smesko said. “We were a little slow to adjust to causing problems on deep post-ups yesterday, but we play the way we play. Sometimes the big players can cause us problems around the rim, but they also have to guard us, and we can stretch people out with our players, having so many shooters on the floor.”

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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