tampabay.com

Terps prove naysayers wrong

Maryland beats North Carolina for the second time this year, 81-70.

By GREG AUMAN
Published April 3, 2006


 

BOSTON - Maryland officially has moved out of North Carolina's and Duke's shadow and into the national championship game.

The Terrapins, ranked No.3 in the nation but seen as the ACC's No.3 team all season, knocked off the top-ranked and top-seeded Tar Heels 81-70 on Sunday night at TD Banknorth Center.

"All season long, this team has played with a chip on their shoulder, has really felt like they had to fight for respect every step of the way," coach Brenda Frese said. "They have a lot of believers after tonight."

Second-seeded Maryland, which handed North Carolina (33-2) its only other loss, led 67-58 with four minutes to play. But the Tar Heels cut it to 70-68 with 2:05 left on a shot by Erlana Larkins, who scored a career-high 28.

But on a night when the Terrapins' post players led the way, it was 5-foot-9 guard Shay Doron who hit a free throw and pullup jumper for a 73-68 lead. And Maryland (33-4) put the game away by hitting its last six free throws.

"We knew (the comeback) was coming, so we just had to stay relaxed and not turn on each other like some teams do," said Doron, who scored five of her eight during the final two minutes.

In a contest between two of the NCAA's three highest-scoring teams, Maryland pulled away by shooting 65 percent in the second half. The Terrapins got a career-high 24 points from 6-4 sophomore center Laura Harper and 23 points from 6-2 forward Crystal Langhorne, who helped Maryland outrebound North Carolina 41-31.

"We just buckled down and said, "We have to rebound in order to win this game,' and we want to win," Harper said.

Frese was just as pleased with her team's defense, holding the Tar Heels to 32 percent shooting in the second half. Aside from Larkins, North Carolina got little else offensively, with star guard Ivory Latta limited by a knee injury sustained midway through the first half. Latta went 1-for-10 on 3-point attempts, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

"Rebounding was a big key, and we couldn't make a 3-point shot," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "It was a very physical game, and I expected it to be that way."

Langhorne, a first-team all-ACC selection who led the nation with a .665 shooting percentage entering the game, improved on that, hitting her first seven shots and scoring 16 in the first half. Freshman forward Marissa Coleman added 12 points and 14 rebounds, one shy of her season high.

Maryland broke open a close game after North Carolina forward Camille Little went to the bench with her fourth foul with 14:07 to play and the Terrapins ahead 46-44. Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver scored nine during a 19-8 run, including Maryland's only 3-pointer, for a 63-52 lead.

The Terrapins handed the Tar Heels their only loss of the regular season 98-95 in overtime Feb.9 at Chapel Hill. North Carolina got its revenge in the ACC championship game with a 91-80 victory.

Both programs had been to the Final Four, but not recently. The Tar Heels' only appearance was their national title in 1994, and Maryland lost in the semifinals in 1982 and 1987. The Terrapins' first championship game appearance is an impressive turnaround from a 10-18 record in Frese's first season three years ago.

"Give Maryland credit. They played tougher than us," North Carolina guard Jessica Sell said. "They just may win it all."