A misfiring, sluggish, turnover-plagued Maryland women's basketball team was brought back to earth by Rosie Walker's inside power and the tough defense of her Stephen F. Austin teammates, 60-52, last night at Cole Field House.
Against the Ladyjacks, the third-ranked Terrapins were facing their fourth top-10 foe in the last 11 days.
But the Terrapins -- who seemed uncharacteristically slow afoot except for a brief span in the second half -- would not use fatigue as an excuse for their second loss in 10 games.
"I told the team that if you're not excited enough about playing the No. 2 team in the nation to get the adrenalin flowing, then I don't know what you can do," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller.
However, Maryland center Kris Kirchner admitted the Terps may have suffered cerebral fatigue:
"I think we lacked desire; we were mentally drained. It's hard to get up for every game. Playing all these ranked teams has been tough."
Weller praised the Terrapin defense, which held Austin (13-1) 21 points below its average game score. But the Terps had little to stop Walker, a 6-foot-1 junior center, who equaled her 27-point average.
"We tried to front her," Kirchner said. "When they threw the lob over the defender, we depended on help."
The Terps never got it as Walker sank 12 of 21 shots and scored six points in the final 3:30 to stave off Maryland's comeback bid.
Maryland got itself into trouble by shooting 21 percent in the first half (six of 28). By halftime, Austin led, 27-19.
The Terps zipped to an 8-2 lead before the Texans called time and switched from man-to-man defense to one-three-one zone. That ploy worked splendidly for the visitors as the tentative Terps failed to penetrate and misfired from outside.
"They brought the zone out almost to half court, spreading us out," said Weller. "To beat it we needed help from the wings, but they weren't coming out from the baseline. We actually ended up with a one-four offense."
Terrapin scoreless droughts of 7:42 and 3:42 in the first half did not help matters.
The Ladyjacks went scoreless for the first 3:22 of the second half. But Maryland had seven of its first eight possessions end with a turnover or missed shot and scored only one free throw in the first 4:07.
The host team finally began living up to its No. 3 ranking by making a 13-4 run that pulled it from 10 points down to one (44-43) with 7:17 left. Two offensive rebound baskets by Kirchner (19 points, nine rebounds) sparked the charge.
Two minutes later, Debbie Stewart canned a short jumper to tie the score at 47. But Walker scored six of the game's next eight points from inside to propel the Ladyjacks to a 55-49 lead with 1:35 left.
During that period, the Terps missed six straight shots, including four on one possession.
Betsy Bailey sank one of two free throws to move the hosts within 57-50, but a pair of Terp turnovers in response to Barbara Brown's layup on a pass from Walker and two free throws by Terry Black killed Maryland's hopes.
Maryland established a team record for fewest field goals made with its 17 goals (out of 61 attempts, 27.9 percent).
Kirchner had four blocks and three steals but, for the most part, was stymied on defense by several questionable calls by the officials on plays that appeared to be clean blocks.