The Terrapins women’s basketball team appeared poised to go on a run when Shatori Walker-Kimbrough stepped onto the court four minutes into Sunday afternoon’s game with the Terps holding an 11-6 lead over Georgia Tech.
The guard is the Terps’ second-leading scorer, often providing offensive boosts off the bench to help establish commanding leads. When she came off the floor with 11:53 remaining in the half, however, she was 0-of-1 with one rebound, and the Terps were up 18-12, far from a comfortable margin. Walker-Kimbrough played eight minutes in the 79-62 win and was held scoreless for the first time in 24 games.
The Terps (22-5, 10-4 ACC) have won three of their last four games, but Walker-Kimbrough’s scoring and playing time have taken a dip. Stellar performances from Terps starters have diminished Walker-Kimbrough’s role on offense entering tonight’s matchup at Boston College (12-16, 3-11).
“It was definitely an adjustment,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “But I still can’t get relaxed. I still have to be ready.”
The Aliquippa, Pa., native averaged 10.9 points in her first 23 games, shooting 50 percent from three-point range during that span. Her sharpshooting and quickness helped her become one of the team’s most efficient scorers and its top offensive option off the bench, especially when the Terps needed a scorer to help take the momentum.
With the Terps trailing 8-4 early in the first half against Syracuse on Feb. 2, Walker-Kimbrough had 11 points and four rebounds in a surge that put the Terps ahead 31-20 with 6:05 remaining. During her 18 minutes on the court, she shot 7-of-9 from the field for 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
In the past four matchups, though, Walker-Kimbrough has averaged 3.8 points while playing 12.8 minutes per game. Her eight minutes on the court against Georgia Tech tied for her shortest shift of the season, but the downward trend is a result of other Terps’ recent play, coach Brenda Frese said, rather than Walker-Kimbrough’s performances.
“I think it’s actually a by-product of how Katie Rutan is playing, and Alyssa Thomas,” Frese said. “Alyssa doesn’t come off the floor, putting up triple-doubles and double-doubles, and then Katie going 8-for-10 from the three-point line and playing as well as she is.”
Thomas recorded her latest triple-double Thursday against Florida State, and Rutan tied a program record with eight three-point field goals that night. The pair has led a starting unit that accounts for most of the Terps’ offense of late, while the usually effective bench rotation has scored fewer than 20 points in three of the past four games.
Walker-Kimbrough is a significant part of the team’s offense off the bench, but the Terps have found success in different areas, such as when they had 60 points in the paint against Georgia Tech.
With more success coming from inside, the Terps focused on pounding the post, and Frese chose to play forwards Tierney Pfirman and Malina Howard over Walker-Kimbrough.
“Our players have understood it,” Frese said. “They’ve seen this take place in terms of what we need every night. It’s different.”
Though Walker-Kimbrough’s role has dwindled lately, altering her playing style could prevent her from being the offensive threat she has been throughout the season. Boston College will look to contain a Terps frontcourt that dominated against Georgia Tech, Frese said, and an effective backcourt offense will be important to stretch the Eagles’ defense.
As she showed earlier in the season, Walker-Kimbrough can bolster that backcourt. Though the Terps have had success despite her struggles, Walker-Kimbrough remains intent on making an offensive impact.
“I definitely still want to be a threat,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Our seniors are playing phenomenal right now, and I feel like if I pass up shots, then that makes the defense shift over to the seniors.”