Brilliant one day, baffling the next. The Jekyll-and-Hyde personality of the University of Maryland women's basketball team this season has been enough to turn third-year Coach Chris Weller's hair prematurely gray.
Oft times performing as if in a daze, the Terrapins averaged 22 turnovers a game (including four games of 30 or more), played a "matador" style of defense in surrendering layups in bunches and appeared to panic each time an opponent threw up a fullcourt press.
On the positive side of the ledger, the sixth-ranked Terps are shooting 50 percent from the field (four games at 60 percent or better) and have outrebounded 23 of their 28 opponents. Maryland has averaged 90 points a game in rolling to a 25-3 mark, the school.
With senior Tara Heiss running the attack, the Terps are probably the best fast-breaking outfit in the nation. Betsy Bailey and Jane Zivalich have been the recipients of many of Heiss' 221 assists. Debby Stewart, Debby Jones, Kris Kirchner and Krystal Kimrey are good offensive rebounders with soft touches inside the lane.
"We only get in trouble when we get impatient and our offense breaks down," Weller said. "I don't worry so much about our defense."
Maryland committed a season-high 35 turnovers against No. 1-ranked Tennessee Friday night, but the Terps turned in possibly their finest defensive effort of the year.
Maryland also shot 61 percent (36 of 59) to upset the defensive-minded Lady Vols, 75-69, in the AIAW's South Regional semifinals at Delta State University.
Even the coach of Southern Connecticut, Don Perrelli, who found a few minutes to watch the Terps before his team beat Valdosta State (Ga.), 82-75, in the other semifinal, was impressed with Maryland.
"They have the best point guard (Heiss) in the country," Perrelli said.
The long, strenuous practice sessions and scrimmages against Maryland U. male intramural teams have paid off handsomely for the Terps. In 22 of its 28 games Maryland has jumped out to commanding leads at half-halftime.
But Maryland often has reverted to its Mr. Hyde personality to make the second half very interesting.
In its 70-69 victory over Immaculata in an AIAW Eastern Regional playoff game, Maryland led by as many as 17 points and nearly lost at the buzzer.
Eight teams that have trailed the Terps at intermission either outscored them or played Maryland even in the second half. The Terps built a 17-point lead against Tennessee midway in the second half and had to hang on to win by six.
"We tend to rush sometimes," said Heiss, the first woman to score 1,000 points at Maryland, "and that's when we lose the ball. The press has bothered us some, but we worked on it before coming here."
After the one-point victory over Immaculata and an 18-point loss to Montclair State last week, in which the Terps committed a total of 49 turnovers and shot 44 percent from the field, Weller scheduled three days of practice and two scrimmages versus the men.
Weller worked her changes diligently on breaking the press and running offensive patterns.
We were very impressive in the scrimmages," she said. "The intensity and the concentration was there.
"We've worked hard to get here," Weller said. "Sometimes we've been erratic, but we play well when we have to."