Maryland Women Defeat Florida State in ACC Basketball
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Feb. 2 -- A group of Florida State students, clad in gold T-shirts with red Superman logos splashed across the front, started harassing Kristi Toliver during warmups, even moving from one end of the court to the other during the game to ensure that the Maryland senior guard could hear their taunts when she was on offense.
But Toliver silenced them in the end with one dagger of a shot at the buzzer. Less than five seconds earlier, the 15th-ranked Seminoles had taken a two-point lead on a putback by a freshman reserve. But Toliver flew down the floor and launched an off-balance three-pointer from the right side, similar to the spot where she made her most famous shot, against Duke in the 2006 NCAA title game.
The ball splashed through the hoop, Toliver kept her hands in the air as the buzzer sounded and the students -- who only moments earlier had been celebrating -- recoiled in shock. Once the officials double-checked the replay and certified 13th-ranked Maryland's 72-71 victory, the Terrapins danced at center court.
"That was better than the Super Bowl last night, the way the game went down to the wire, two great teams competing," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. "We love those kind of battles."
Maryland (17-4, 5-2 ACC) handed Florida State its first conference loss, in front of 2,885 at Tucker Center. The Seminoles (18-5, 6-1) stepped onto the court with the swagger befitting a team that had won its past nine games, including three straight against nationally ranked opponents.
The Terrapins, meantime, were trying to rebound from their disappointing performance at No. 17 Virginia on Friday, an 89-81 loss in which they blew a 13-point second-half lead. But against Florida State, Maryland continued to battle, even when it appeared as if the game was going to slip out of its hands.
The Seminoles did a good job of defending Marissa Coleman (15 points) and Toliver (15 points), and the two seniors, to their credit, did not try to force shots. Instead, they looked for their teammates, often driving to the basket and then dishing the ball; they combined for 11 of Maryland's 14 assists. Freshman center Lynetta Kizer scored 14 points, and junior forward Demauria Liles added 10.
"Fortunately for us, we had other guys step up and make plays," said Toliver, who attempted just seven shots, half of what she usually takes. "We knew that if Marissa and I weren't able to have those easy looks, we'd be able to create for our teammates."
Neither team led by more than five points, and there were 14 ties and 14 lead changes. When Florida State sophomore Courtney Ward drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 2 minutes 2 seconds remaining, that created the biggest advantage of the second half at the time, 68-65. Coleman and Toliver each had a three-point attempt spin out of the basket, then Kizer fouled out of the game while setting a screen for Toliver on an inbounds play.
The Seminoles pushed their advantage to 69-65 following a free throw by freshman Cierra Bravard with 1:08 to play. Coleman halved that on a drive then deflected a Florida State inbounds pass to Toliver, who was fouled with 24.6 seconds to go. Toliver made both free throws, and that set up the final furious seconds.
Tanae Davis-Cain put up her 15th three-point attempt of the game but missed, and the strong 6-foot-4 Bravard came up with the rebound and putback with 4.9 seconds on the clock. The Terrapins had no timeouts left, but Frese said she probably wouldn't have called one anyway, since everyone knew that Toliver was going to get the ball.
After the game, Toliver explained that as she dribbled downcourt, she saw Coleman on the right side, and "I was going to pass it to her, but I couldn't tell how close her defender was." Instead Toliver kept the ball, slipped, and launched the shot. Later, she was asked if she really thought about giving up the chance to take the game-winning shot.
"Well, I mean, let's be real here," Toliver said with a sly grin. "I saw Marissa, I couldn't gauge how close her defender was, but as soon as I was around the three-point line, I knew it was going to have to go up. I didn't know I was going to be falling and shooting at the same time, though."