Maryland Terrapins Rout Struggling Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Marissa Coleman posts her fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Terrapins win their 32nd consecutive home game Sunday at the Comcast Center.
Marissa Coleman posts her fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Terrapins win their 32nd consecutive home game Sunday at the Comcast Center. (Rob Carr - AP)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009

Late in the first half of the 11th-ranked Maryland women's 67-47 nonconference victory over Rutgers yesterday afternoon, junior forward Dee Liles set a screen to help teammate Kristi Toliver escape a trap on the perimeter. As the 6-foot-1 Liles braced herself, Kia Vaughn -- the Scarlet Knights' strong, 6-4 center -- crashed into her, and the 12,861 fans inside Comcast Center let out a collective "ooof" after the collision. Toliver broke free and fed Marah Strickland for an open three-pointer.

The Terrapins' victory, which raised their record to 21-4, was filled with physical moments like that. Toliver was hit in the face at one point, and senior Marissa Coleman was pushed to the floor several times, and had her headband knocked off on one drive to the basket.

"They're an aggressive team, and they really pride themselves on the defensive end," said Coleman, who scored a game-high 22 points and added 10 rebounds. "So coming into this game, the coaching staff said whenever we drive to the lane, just expect contact."

The Scarlet Knights (14-10), who beat the Terrapins last season in New Jersey, were ranked third in the preseason poll but dropped out of the rankings in late January. They came to Comcast having lost four of their past seven games and were tied for seventh place in the Big East. They struggled from the very beginning against a Maryland team known more for its offensive explosiveness than its defensive stinginess.

Rutgers missed 11 of its first 12 shots, and only a three-pointer at the buzzer from senior Heather Zurich (11 points) prevented it from posting its lowest point total of the season. The Scarlet Knights made just 18 of 73 shots, their lowest percentage (24.7) of the season.

"I thought that Maryland played better defense than I've seen them play. I think they enjoyed playing defense today, and they were aggressive," said Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. "Obviously the ball wasn't going in the basket, but we had opportunities. I thought that we may have stood around a little too much, and they put pressure on us as a group."

Only two Rutgers players scored more than six points, and its second-leading scorer, junior Brittany Ray, went scoreless for the first time this season. Junior guard Epiphanny Prince scored 19 points -- just shy of her average of 20.5, which ranks 14th in the country -- but she took 29 shots (making seven) to do so. Prince missed a handful of layups, but she usually had a hand in her face when she squared up from outside. Strickland, a 6-foot Maryland sophomore, guarded the 5-9 Prince for much of the game.

"I've watched a lot of their games, and [Prince] usually doesn't shoot figures like that, so I credit our defense, and the fact that she had to work," said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, whose team travels to Georgia Tech (18-7, 5-5 ACC) on Thursday. "Every shot she took I thought was a really difficult shot."

The Terrapins, who averaged 88.7 points on 52 percent shooting in the three games leading up to their contest against Rutgers, also had to work on offense. They shot 40 percent from the floor and had limited opportunities to get out and run (six fast-break points). But Maryland went to the line 28 times (14 by Coleman), and made 23 free throws.

"We're definitely a team that likes to get up and down, and they need to play slow in order to win games," said Toliver, who scored 18 points. "We tried to take advantage of whatever opportunities we could and be aggressive going to the basket. They were being physical. We just went to the free throw line a ton, just being aggressive going to the rim."

The Terrapins jumped out to a 14-2 lead, but Prince scored eight straight points to help cut the advantage to 16-14 with 7 minutes 19 seconds left in the first half. Toliver blew by Prince at the other end of the court for a layup, and then Coleman fed Liles for another easy layin. Rutgers never really challenged Maryland again.

"I thought we did a tremendous job today, just understanding that this was going to be a different game," Frese said. "It was going to be more slow-paced, and we understood that it was going to come down to getting stops on the defensive end, and then executing on the offensive end."

Maryland Note: Senior guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood was not with the team because of illness, according to a Maryland spokesman. Strickland started in her place.

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