No. 24 Pitt Panthers Rout No. 8 Maryland in NCAA Women's Basketball

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 7 -- Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman found themselves in an unfamiliar situation Sunday afternoon at 24th-ranked Pittsburgh: on the bench, with their heads in their hands, for the final minutes of a blowout loss. Coleman had been sent to the sideline with about 12 minutes left in No. 8 Maryland's 86-57 defeat, and Toliver followed five minutes later.

It was the Terrapins' most lopsided setback since a 30-point loss to Duke in the 2005 ACC tournament, and it snapped their seven-game winning streak.

"Pitt just outworked, outhustled, outcompeted us for 40 minutes," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. "All the credit goes to Pitt. Everything they did was right, and everything that we did is disappointing, because we didn't compete. I'll tell ya, that's going to change. That's going to change in a hurry."

Frese was especially unhappy with Coleman and Toliver, a pair of four-year starters and all-American hopefuls. At No. 17 Purdue on Thursday, Coleman and Toliver never left the floor, and they willed the Terrapins to a 70-59 victory in a hostile arena, playing with poise and combining to score 21 of their team's final 25 points.

But on Sunday, Toliver (12 points, four turnovers) attempted only two shots during the first 12 minutes of the second half, and Coleman (eight points, four turnovers) seemed to get discouraged as shots rolled off the rim or the ball was thrown away.

"As proud as I was of our seniors against Purdue, we didn't get it from Marissa and Kristi today," Frese said. "We've got to be consistent. . . . When Marissa is positive and good things are going for her, we can be a pretty darn good team. But in a moment of adversity, that's when you get challenged a little bit more, and that's where we have to continue to stick together as a team, and continue to stay as positive we can."

Neither Coleman nor Toliver was made available to reporters after the game. Freshman center Lynetta Kizer scored 10 points, and senior guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood had seven points and four assists off the bench.

Pittsburgh's star, senior guard Shavonte Zellous, scored 20 of her 26 points in the second half as the Panthers blew open what was a seven-point game at halftime. The Panthers shot 58.6 percent from the field in the second half and committed only 10 turnovers in the game.

Senior guard Xenia Stewart, an All-Met from Riverdale Baptist who was honored before the game for passing the 1,000-point mark, scored 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting, and sophomore guard Taneisha Harrison, who played at St. John's (D.C.), had a career-high 12 assists. (The Panthers have another player with local ties: Sophomore center Selena Nwude, an All-Met from Eleanor Roosevelt, is rehabilitating a knee injury.)

With less than three minutes left in the game, a Pitt fan held up a whiteboard with "You're not overrated, we're simply great" written on it. That remains to be seen, but the Panthers (6-1) have been steadily improving over the past two seasons and they've won their six games this season by an average of 31.5 points. In 2007, they qualified for their first NCAA tournament, and a year later they advanced to the Sweet 16. Last season, they beat four ranked teams.

But never before had the Panthers beaten a team ranked as highly as the Terrapins (7-2), and afterward, Pittsburgh's irrepressible coach, Agnus Berenato, addressed the 3,223 fans in attendance, thanking everyone from the university chancellor to the cheerleaders. She called it "the biggest win in the history of our program."

For the Terrapins, however, it was a discouraging flashback to their season opener at TCU, in which they committed 17 turnovers, fell behind early and lost, 80-68. Maryland turned over the ball 22 times against Pittsburgh, and many of the giveaways were unforced: walking violations, poor entry passes, miscommunications on pick-and-rolls. The Panthers scored 26 points off those mistakes.

"I don't think you ever need a loss [like this]. We should've learned from TCU, and shame on us that we haven't," said Frese, whose team plays at Loyola on Tuesday. "We just, quite honestly, got to get a lot tougher. We're not there. I hope we're there by the time ACC play is ready to go. Otherwise, the ACC will not be kind for us."

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