A 3-Point Landing
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
BOSTON, April 4 -- For the longest time, Duke has been the school that brought heartbreak to Maryland basketball teams. Its men's team handed the Terrapins some of their more agonizing defeats. Its women's team held sway over Maryland for six long years.
Maryland's lengthy suffering at the hands of the Blue Devils ended at TD Banknorth Garden Tuesday night as the Terrapins made their third trip to the Final Four their most successful one. Maryland won its first national championship by overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit to stun Duke, 78-75, in overtime. It tied the second-biggest comeback in a national championship game, only the second overtime final in the 25-year history of the NCAA tournament and the third consecutive year a No. 2 seed has won the title.
"Overtime is our time," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said as she and the Terrapins accepted the national championship trophy.
Maryland (34-4), which went 6-0 in overtime games this season, joined Stanford, Connecticut and North Carolina as schools with men's and women's NCAA basketball championships. The Terrapin men won the title in 2002.
Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver, whose three-point basket with 6.1 seconds left sent the game into an extra period, made two free throws with 34 seconds left in overtime to put Maryland ahead, 76-75. Her fellow freshman, Marissa Coleman (St. John's) secured the Terrapins' win by making two free throws with 13 seconds on the clock. Duke (31-4) had one last chance to send the game to a second extra period, but Jessica Foley's three-point attempt fell short.
"When Kristi hit that shot, we all went crazy in the huddle," Coleman said. "Shay [Doron] looked at everybody [and said] 'What better way to win a national championship than in overtime, which was our time all season long?' "
Maryland posted only its second victory over its nemesis Duke in its last 16 games by having its usual balanced scoring. The Terrapins, who defeated the Blue Devils in the ACC tournament semifinals to end a 14-game losing streak in the series, had five players score in double figures. Laura Harper, Toliver and Doron finished with 16 points apiece. Crystal Langhorne had 12 and Marissa Coleman added 10 points and 14 rebounds.
"I'll tell you, of all the years I've been coaching, never have I seen a team go through a season and play for each other the way they played tonight," Frese said. "And how fitting, in this game, five players in double figures, an overtime win, just everything that was a culmination of this season all wrapped up in this last game."
Maryland's comeback began with a solid defensive play by Langhorne. With the Terrapins trailing 45-34, Langhorne stole the ball from Abby Waner on the left wing, dribbled down the court and was fouled by Lindsey Harding as she made the layup. Langhorne made her foul shot to cut the Blue Devils' lead to eight with 14 minutes 42 seconds to play. On Duke's next possession, Doron and Coleman trapped Foley in the corner, forcing her to call a timeout. Suddenly, the momentum had swung in Maryland's direction.
The Terrapins continued to chip away until Duke all-American Monique Currie picked up her fourth foul and sent Doron to the line. Doron sank both her free throws to tie the score at 58. Langhorne gave Maryland its first lead since 2-1 when she sank one of two free throws, putting the Terrapins ahead, 59-58. Duke went back in front less than 20 seconds later on two free throws by Bales. From there, Maryland tied the score twice more before Duke extended its lead to four on two foul shots by Currie with 3:14 to go.
Mistie Williams and Doron became tied up when they went for the rebound off Harding's missed shot with less than a minute remaining. Doron hit her elbow hard and had to leave the game. Williams was called for the foul and Ashleigh Newman went to the line to shoot the foul shots for Doron. Newman missed the first, but made second to pull the Terrapins to 68-65. After Williams missed her shot on Duke's next possession, Toliver sank a jump shot and Maryland was within one with 25 seconds remaining.
The Terrapins were forced to foul to stop the clock. Harper, who was selected the most outstanding player of the tournament, sent Foley to the line with 18.8 seconds on the clock. Foley made her free throws to put Duke up by three, setting the stage for Toliver's heroic jumper over Bales.
"In my opinion big-time players want the ball in big-time situations," Toliver said. "I wanted to take the shot."
Harding had one last chance to win the game for Duke, but her shot at the buzzer grazed the rim and fell away.
In a game that featured the top two scoring teams in Division I, neither team could put the ball in the basket early. Maryland made the first basket, but didn't make many after that. Toliver appeared the most eager to shoot, taking six of Maryland's first 12 shots. She made just one, however as the Terrapins missed 11 of their first 16 shots.
"We felt great at halftime," said Currie, who finished with 22 points and was selected to the all-tournament team. "We thought we were playing pretty well. We felt like we were in a good position to win the game if we continue to play like we played that entire [first] half."