Chris Weller, University of Maryland women's basketball coach, is seeking to rekindle the enthusiasm and aggressiveness of her sixth-ranked Terps. So this week she had players scrimmage several men's intramural teams at College Park, Md.
"The games helped us in the past, and we hadn't done it in a while," said Weller. "We looked pretty good. The intensity and concentration was there."
Maryland (24-3) will need 40 minutes of both tonight against No. 1-ranked Tennessee (27-2) in the opening round of the AIAW Southern Region tournament at Delta State University at 7 p.m.
Southern Connecticut (18-10) meets Valdosta State (26-3) at 9.
The winners play for the Southern crown Saturday night. The victor joins the Eastern, Western and Central region champions for the national title playoffs March 23-25 at UCLA.
Maryland, making its first appearance in the national, was not sharp in its games last week. The Terps barely got past Immaculata, 70-69, after they handily whipped that team by 50 points three weeks earlier. The following night Carol Blazejowski riddled porous Maryland defense for 48 points in leading Montclair State to a 92-74 triumph.
Turnovers, poor shot selection and a failure to handle full-court pressure haunted the Terps both games.
"I think we can handle the press now," said Weller. "We just didn't execute well. We weren't patient on offense. We were very, very sluggish."
Tennessee, one of the top defensive teams in the nation, has an excellent press. The Lady Vols usually play one-to-one defense and are good rebounders.
"Maryland is a good fast-breaking team. They're very quick," said Tennessee Coach Pat Head. "But our defense has been of our strongest suits all year."
One important match up will be in the back court. Maryland's Tara Heiss (13.9 points and eight assists) and Betsy Bailey (12.4 points) will go against Suzanne Barbre (15.8 points) and Hollie Warwick (6.4 points and six assists).
One of the Terps' 5-foot-10 forwards, Jane Zivalich or Debbie Jones, probably will draw the a ssignment of containing junior All-America Cindy Brogden, Tennessee's leading scorer and rebounder at 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Kris Kirchner (12.6 points and 9.9 rebounds) and her 6-5 backup, Keystal Kimrey, rate a slight edge over freshmen Cindy Ely and Debbie Grover, who split the duties in the middle for Tennessee.
"We plan to go inside more against them." said Weller. "We shot too much from the perimeter last week. We need to draw some fouls."
Both are good shooting teams. The Terps hit 50 percent, averaging 90.6 points per game. Tennessee has the same percentage, averaging 83.5 points.
If it comes to depth, the edge probably will go to Maryland, Kimrey, 6-1 Debbie Stewart, Doreen Lefeged and Mary Briese have played exceptionally in spot appearances.