Maryland shot 57 percent in the second half and called on a doomsday defense keyed by Kris Kirchner to stop North Carolina's late comeback 71-69, in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball tournament at Reynolds Coliseum tonight.
In the other semifinal, fifth-ranked North Carolina State gunned down Clemson, 94-65. The defending champion Terps and the Wolfpack, who have split two meetings this season, play at 4 p.m. Saturday for the championship. The game will be broadcast in Washington by WJLA-TV-7 and in Baltimore by WMAR-TV-2.
Maryland had to digest a dish of what tasted like home cooking served by the officials, and its own inopportune miscues, before ending a two-game losing streak.
"I've kept my mouth shut long enough," said Terrapin Coach Chris Weller about recent officiating, especially tonight's. "I think Kris gets mutilated under the boards.
"She's a big girl (6 feet 3) with a big name. This has been hapening ever since our five-game win streak earlier this season. The officiating has been favoring the smaller people."
Maryland, despite taking many more inside shots than the Tar Heels, shot 16 free throws to UNC's 25. The Terps made up for a 17-9 scoring deficit from the line by sinking five more field goals.
"They didn't call a lot of fouls off the ball," Kirchner said in understatement. Kirchner was constantly bumped around by the inside people in Carolina's zone, especially when she was trying to work herself open for a pass underneath in the late going.
Weller did not start the rangy All-America because of her poor play recently.
"She just hasn't been playing well lately," Weller said.
"Coach doesn't cut any slack," Kirchner commented.
Kirchner did not cut much either, in her 21 minutes of playing time. Although she scored a subpar seven points, Kirchner blocked four Tar Heel shots -- three in an 11-second span late in the game when the seventh-ranked Terps were trying to hold a tenuous four-point lead.