Maryland tops North Carolina, 83-77, in ACC women's basketball tournament

Maryland's Jackie Nared, second from left, and Dara Taylor (2) battle for the ball with two Tar Heels.
Maryland's Jackie Nared, second from left, and Dara Taylor (2) battle for the ball with two Tar Heels. (By Joseph Rodriguez/greensboro News & Record Via Associated Press)
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Maryland women's basketball team arrived at the ACC tournament with uncertain NCAA tournament prospects. The ninth-seeded Terrapins' 83-77 victory over North Carolina on Thursday at Greensboro Coliseum made their case to the selection committee that much more compelling.

Sophomore center Lynetta Kizer had a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman forward Tianna Hawkins added 13 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

The Terrapins played the final 5 minutes 28 seconds with four players with four fouls, including Kizer (Potomac, Va.) and Hawkins (Riverdale Baptist), yet did not commit an infraction the rest of the way. Instead, after Kizer's basket with 3:14 left gave the Terrapins a 71-61 lead, they forced North Carolina into fouling, as Maryland shot 18 free throws in the closing minutes.

Maryland missed eight of those, and the eighth-seeded Tar Heels capitalized on that balky free throw shooting to draw to 79-77 with 12 seconds to play. After a North Carolina timeout, Maryland guard Kim Rodgers, who had missed both foul shots in her previous trip to the line, calmly sank two, and on the Tar Heels' ensuing possession, Jackie Nared stole the ball and tossed an outlet pass to Hawkins for a layup as time expired.

"Our young guns grew up today," Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said. "Just to see the poise and confidence that we played with, I think we definitely were inspired today after watching our men's team yesterday. Just tremendous passion and energy in terms of what we wanted to do against UNC, and I think the biggest thing is we finished it. We finished it and completed it for a 40-minute game."

Over several stretches, Maryland (19-11) appeared to be rolling into Friday's quarterfinals, in which they will play top-seeded Duke. The Terrapins built a 24-8 advantage midway through the first half, led by 10 at halftime and pushed ahead to 53-37 after intermission.

But North Carolina (18-11) stiffened and leaned on the inside-outside combination of center Chay Shegog (Brooke Point) and guard Cetera DeGraffenreid to retaliate.

DeGraffenreid, who finished with game highs of 23 points and six steals, scored six straight points, including four free throws. The junior went 10 for 10 from the line overall before fouling out. With many of Maryland's inside players in foul trouble, Shegog (16 points, game-high 12 rebounds) found room to maneuver underneath, and her basket with 5:11 left cut the margin to 63-59.

Maryland, meantime, could have prevented the drama in the final minutes had it been more steady from the line. After making all six of its free throws in the first half, the Terrapins missed 15 of 28 after the break, including four errant attempts by freshman point guard Dara Taylor (10 points, 3 assists, 7 turnovers) over the final two minutes.

"It kind of became a game of rope-a-dope a little bit because I think they knew our team was trying to get the ball to me to shoot foul shots," said senior Lori Bjork, who made all four of her attempts and is among Maryland's best free throw shooter at 84 percent. "Everybody in the gym knew that, so they didn't want to foul me, so it was kind of like how long can I hold on to the ball before I need to give it up."

The Terrapins also persevered despite making just 25 percent of their three-point attempts, including 3 of 13 in the first half. Bjork was the only Maryland player with more than one three-pointer, and Rodgers went 0 for 5 from that distance. Rodgers entered the game making 31 percent of her three-point shots.

Maryland limited North Carolina to 37 percent shooting, including 4 of 16 three-point attempts, and limited leading scorer Italee Lucas to zero points on 0-for-4 shooting. Lucas had been averaging 15.4 points per game this season.

"You know, I'm not going to sleep much because I'm going to be thinking about Duke," Frese said when asked if the victory was enough to secure an NCAA tournament berth. "That's where my focus is. Like I told the team, we control our destiny, and that's just every single time we step out and play, and that's all we can control."

-- BOSTON COLLEGE 62, VIRGINIA TECH 49: Stefanie Murphy had 18 points to lead the seventh-seeded Eagles (16-14) past the 10th-seeded Hokies (15-15) and into a quarterfinal matchup against No. 2 seed Florida State.

Nikki Davis had 10 points for Virginia Tech, which was on the receiving end of one of the most lopsided first-round losses in ACC tournament history.

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