RALEIGH — Lynetta Kizer has a message for her Maryland teammates.
The No. 2-seeded Terrapins will play No. 1 seed Notre Dame tonight at 9 in the Raleigh Regional final of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. It’s familiar ground for Kizer, one of only two seniors on a youthful Maryland squad.
“The Elite Eight is the toughest game to play in the whole tournament, because it’s the game that gets you to the final four,” the 6-4 center from Woodbridge, Va., said. “And we want to get to the Final Four. This team has the talent to get there.”
Kizer was part of another Terrapins team in the same position three years ago as a freshman, in the same venue, when PNC Arena was still known as the RBC Center. However, Maryland lost in the regional final to Louisville and missed out on the Final Four. It’s taken Kizer three years to get back to this juncture.
“At the time I really didn’t understand what was at stake, the whole thing,” she recalled. But, she has impressed the importance of the game upon her younger teammates. “They know today what’s at stake,” she said.
Kizer’s road back to Raleigh took a strange turn this season. She was suspended for the first three games – nobody at Maryland has explained why, other than to say it was a violation of team rules – and when she returned to action, coach Brenda Frese informed her she would not be coming off the bench.
“We were undefeated at the time, and everything was working,” Frese said at Monday’s news conference. “We were in a good groove, the chemistry was great. That was before (freshman guard) Brene Moseley came on, and we didn’t have a scoring punch off the bench.”
Kizer came through to average 11.2 points (fourth on the team) and 5.6 rebounds (tied for third) in 23.6 minutes per game (also fourth). The ACC coaches recognized her efforts and voted her the ACC Sixth Player of the Year.
“That was all Lynetta,” Frese said. “She never made an issue abut it; she’s done what’s best for the team.”
“It was difficult to accept at first after starting for three years,” said Kizer, who was a preseason All-ACC pick and a member of the watch lists for the Wooden and Naismith national player honors. “But the team was going good, and I say if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
“I never asked any questions. I just kept playing, doing anything and everything I can to give us a spark off the bench.”