For those upcoming opponents who think the Maryland women's basketball team may have shown its best in winning the prestigious Orange Bowl Classic last weekend, Terrapin Coach Chris Weller issued an unsettling prediction yesterday.
"We have a long way to go. We're going to be a much better team than we are now."
That should be hard news to accept for fourth-ranked UCLA and No. 5 Tennessee, both of whom were beaten by Maryland in the classic, which included six top-20 teams.
Last weekend's work lifted the Terps (6-1) into the No. 3 position in the Associated Press' national rankings, behind top-ranked Old Dominion and No. 2 Stephen F. Austin.
Maryland now has beaten three of the 10 top-rated teams in the nation but has no time to rest on its laurels. The Terps play three more top-10 teams in their next five games, including a Jan. 8 home date against Stephen F. Austin.
Saturday, in Madison Square Garden, Maryland takes on No. 6 Louisiana State as part of a doubleheader that includes top-ranked Old Dominion against Queeens College.
"The team has worked real hard," said Weller. "We're deeper and much more intense this year. I just hope we don't have too much intensity. I don't want them to peak too early."
Weller added that she wants to see the squad's consistency and discipline improve, "So we can cut down on turnovers." She also said the team's defense could improve.
One problem the Terps don't have is a lack of talent up front. The K.K. twins have seen to that.
Preseason All-America center Kris Kirchner and substitute center-forward Krystal Kimrey controlled the inside play at the classic.
"Kirchner had an outstanding game against us, the best she's had all year," said Tennessee Coasch Pat Head. "She is a center to mention when talking about the outstanding ones in the country."
Kirchner sank 13 of 16 shots, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots against Tennessee. Kimrey, who played 23 minutes, blocked three shots and took down 11 misses. In the classic championship against UCLA, Kirchner blocked a half-dozen shots, while getting 18 points and 14 rebounds. Kimrey had 17 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
And Kirchner, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, is not even playing at top speed. A season-long bout with tendinitis has forced her to wear heavy wrappings on both knees.
"Last season, Kris wasn't as quick as she wanted to be," said Weller. "She ran all summer; she probably overworked. I think that's how she developed the tendinitis.
Maryland was expected by many to have problems at point guard with the graduation of Tara Heiss. But Lisa Schlesinger and freshman Lynn Callander have shared that spot with good results.
Weller is particularly high on Callander, a spectacular passer from Columbus, Ohio.
"Lynn plays a lot like Tara did when she first came," Weller said. "She shows phenomenal poise for a freshman."
"Tara was the finest point guard in the country. But this team has enough depth so that all the flash doesn't have to come from the point. The talent and balance keep Lynn's flash from showing."
Guard Betsy Bailey (144-point average), Kirchner (13.3) and senior forward Jane Zivalich (12.3), who is a 58 percent shooter, pace Maryland's balcent of its shots while limiting opponents to 37 percent.
With only two regulars graduating after this season, the Terps also have a brighter future than most of their opponents.