We picked a fine time not to play well," said Terp guard Tara Heiss. "The last game."
Indeed, the Maryland women's basketball team turned in one of its poorest performances of the season Saturday night in Pauley Pavillion and was soundly thrashed, 90-74, by UCLA in the national title game of the AIAW tournament.
The game was played before the largest crowd, 9,351 to witness a women's title game.
Despite Saturday night's defeat, the Terps have a fine year to look back on. The Maryland women posted their best season humiliated by Carol Blazejowski (48 points) and Montclair State, 92-74, in the Eastern Regional final three weeks ago, the Terps pulled themselves together and riddled then-No. 1-ranked Tennessee and Southern Connecticut in the South regionals and then No. 2-ranked Wayland Baptist in the semifinals to reach the final against UCLA.
UCLA, led by four-time All America Ann Meyers and junior Anita Ortega, points, grabbing 10 rebounds and recording nine assists and eight steals. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] grabbed a 24-11 advantage and went on to win the first AIAW championship game played by two major schools.
Meyers closed out her brilliant career on a high note by scoring 20.
She also did an excellent job of containing Maryland's floor leader and leading scorer. Tara Heiss, limiting her to one field goal for the first 25 minutes.
"That was a smart move," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller, refering to the strategy of assigning Meyers, a forward, to cover Heiss instead of either one of the UCLA guards, Dianne Frierson or Ortega.
By the time Heiss started finding open spots on the floor without Meyers' hand in her face, UCLA had stretched a 10-point halftime lead of 43-33 to a more comfortable 74-55 with 7:37 left in the game.
Heiss finished with 12 points and nine assists.
UCLA scored 16 of its 36 baskets following either offensive rebounds or steals.
"They outhustled us from start to finish," Weller said. "We did not execute the fundamentals of the game to my expectations."
Maryland shot only 44 percent, committed 24 turnovers and was called for 22 personal fouls. UCLA scored just one more field goal than Maryland but sank 18 of 20 free throws. Maryland made four of seven.
With Heiss in check, Maryland managed to stay reasonably close on the scoring of Betsy Bailey (20), Debbie Stewart (18) and Kris Krichner (15).
Baskets by Stewart and Bailey brought Maryland within striking distance, 76-65, with 4:40 left. Then Meyers passed off to Ortega and Denise Curry for baskets, pumped in two long jump shots herself and picked up two rebounds and two steals to get UCLA off and running again with an 86-72 lead 2:09 from the end.
A minute later, Meyers left to a standing ovation. The Bruins went on to their 20th straight victory, 32nd straight at the Pavillion and most importantly a national title.
Maryland didn't slow any of its usual zip or spirit. Several players attributed the lack of intensity to the absence of forward Jane Zivalich. The junior, who was to guard Meyers, injured her right knee Thursday night and could only sit disconsolately on the bench with her knee in a large brace.
"In the back of my mind, I was thinking about Jane," Heiss said.
For the first six years of AIAW play, Immaculata and Delta State, both with fewer than 3,000 students, dominated the sport. Each won the national crown three times.
Maryland faced the task of replacing key personel, including Heiss, Weller will be hard pressed to replace her.
Maryland also will lose starting forward Debbie Jones and reserve forward Mary Briese, who ended her career by starting against UCLA.
Center Kirchner and Bailey enjoyed fine freshman seasons. Both, along with Zivalich and Stewart, will form the hub of the Maryland attack next year.
Other returning players who will have a year of tournament experience behind them include 6-5 center Krystal Kimrey, who began to improve near the end of the year and guards Doreen Lefeged, Jane Connolly and Lisa Abood. Lisa Schlesinger may get the first crack at running the team at point guard.
But Weller said she didn't want to think about next year's team.
On the strength of its trip to the national final, Maryland should be able to recruit some of the top high school players in the nation.
Lefty Driesell, coach of the Terp men, announced several years ago Maryland would become the UCLA of the East. Little did he realize the women's team would come closer.