All-America Kris Kirchner came off the bench to score 24 points in 27 minutes and lead Maryland to a 75-73 victory over North Carolina State today for the Terrapins' second straight ACC women's tournament title.
Kirchner, who for the second straight game watched the early moments from the bench, must be womdering what she has to do to get back into Terp Coach Chris Weller's graces. Her defense late in the game against North Carolina put the seventh-ranked Terps into the final. Today her offense helped Maryland fight off the Wolfpack's comeback.
Maryland took control of the game by running off 10 straight points in three minutes early in the second half. That spree, kkeyed by two baskets each by Betsy Bailey and Debbie Stewart, carried Maryland from 36-35 behind to a 45-36 lead. State never caught up.
Maryland four times stretched its lead to as much as 11, but the Pack rallied to 61-60 with 5:50 left. State, ranked fifth, accomplished that by switching to a zone that blanketed tournament MVP Kirchner.
"We stopped getting the ball down court quickly," said Weller. "That allowed State to set up its zone and cut off our inside game."
With Maryland leading, 63-61, Kirchner, who had predicted a tournament title before the game, went to work. She scoredc six straitht points, getting two baskets on follow-up shots, to personally match State's output.
Bailey then connected on a long jumper to make it 71-67 and State's All-America, Genia Beasley, matched it at the other end to make the score 71-69. Kirchner scored on an offensive rebound, Bailey grabbed a defensive rebound and fed Stewart for a layup and Maryland had a 75-69 lead with just over a munute remaining.
But the Terps were not out of the woods yet. Stewart was called for a loose-ball foul and Ronnie Laughlin sank both one-and-ond free throws with 1:03 left. After Stewart threw the ball away on an inbounds pass, Beasley connected on a 25-footer with nine seconds left to make it 75-73.
The Wolfpack then inexplicably waited a full seven seconds before intentionally fouling Bailey to set up Maryland's first one-and-one of the half.
Bailey, who scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half, had taken over Lynn Callander's point position in the late stages.
"I wanted her in there because of her firepower against a zone and because she's our best free throw shooter," said Weller. "So what happens on that last free throw? She misses."
But the final two seconds were noit enough for the Pack to get off a decent shot and avoid losing its fifth game against 20 victories. Maryland is 16-5.
Krystal Kimrey, Maryland's third starting center in as many games, defensed Beasley well in the first eight minutes. Kimrey, an imposing 6-foot-5, intimidated the 6-2 Beasley into missing our of her first five shots and otherwise denied her the ball inside.
Beasley warmed up to finish with a game-high 26 points, plus 10 rebounds.
Maryland played well for the second consecutive time after two lackluster losses.
"Being th underdog is better, since now we have something to prove," said Bailey. "A lot of teams were saying that Maryland was overrateds and was finally showing it. We're fired up now."