Freshman holds her own, but Terps mightier than Swords
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston's basketball scene missed out on one promising young center when wayward pingpong balls left the Celtics on the losing end of the Greg Oden lottery -- not that fans of the storied franchise are stressing too much over that setback as they watch their revitalized team chase 70 wins and an NBA title.
But after watching 6-foot-6 freshman Carolyn Swords hold her own against fourth-ranked Maryland in an otherwise fitful 88-61 loss for Boston College, another promising post appears to be settling in a few miles up the subway's green line from TD Banknorth Garden.
And as rebuilding projects go, Swords is a pretty nice building block.
"I think our team was very impressed with her," Maryland's Crystal Langhorne said after the game. "She's a big body who finishes well. I think she did a very good job tonight."
Both the biggest and the youngest player on the court for long stretches Thursday, Swords finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds against the Terrapins. The point total was just two shy of the most prolific individual effort any player has come up with against Maryland this season (Pitt's Shavonte Zellous scored 30 in a 90-77 loss).
Swords and teammate Stefanie Murphy entered the game as two of just four freshmen ranked among the ACC's top 20 scorers (Murphy led the league at 18.7 points per game before scoring seven against Maryland). The caveat was that aside from a game against Notre Dame in November, their scoring had as much to do with conferences like the Atlantic 10, America East and Northeast as with the trees in the ACC.
Swords managed 11 points and nine rebounds against the Fighting Irish and 14 points and six rebounds against a good Virginia Tech team in Boston College's ACC opener, but she battled fouls en route to four points and three rebounds in an upset win against NC State.
Against a Maryland front line that includes a likely pair of WNBA first-round picks in Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper, Swords looked like she'll be as much of a handful over the next four seasons for the Terrapins, Tar Heels and Blue Devils as for the Black Bears (Maine), Rams (Rhode Island) and Seahawks (Wagner).
As mobile as Terrapins posts like Langhorne, Harper and Jade Perry are -- and here it's worth noting they held Oklahoma's Courtney Paris to 11 points earlier this season -- they struggled all night to prevent Swords from gaining position deep in the post. And when the freshman got the ball inside, she showed a soft turnaround touch and an instinct for keeping the ball away from the prying hands of those playing at a lower altitude.
"She did a nice job playing before the pass, before the catch," Maryland interim coach Daron Park said. "She does a great job working angles and working seals, and that's something juniors and seniors do. So for a freshman to already have that understanding on how to work to get position before the ball is even in position to come to you is something rare that I don't think you see a lot of at that age."
Coming off the upset against the Wolfpack, Thursday's result was a reality check for a young team that cruised to an 11-3 record against a nonconference schedule suited to a roster that includes six freshmen and two sophomores. But Swords' performance against a heavyweight -- along with bright moments from freshmen Murphy and Jaclyn Thoman and sophomore Ayla Brown -- suggest the Eagles won't need a soft schedule for long.
Frese skips trip
• With Maryland on the road, head coach Brenda Frese remained at home -- she is seven months pregnant with twins -- and Park handled head coaching duties for the second time in the past three games (he also coached the team on a road swing through UC Santa Barbara and UCLA earlier this season). Even though Park is in his first season as an assistant at Maryland, Frese talked confidently before the season's first game about the plan of succession that was in place for her veteran team.
So far it seems to be working to perfection.
"We don't even really notice," Harper said. "Our coaches are like a staff, a unit. So with her leaving, it's like, 'OK, one of our unit -- she's got to go.' So nothing really changes. We play the same game. We're coached the same way. And that's something good, because it's pretty steady and centered throughout."
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.
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