Maryland went scoreless for a 5:23 span of the second half tonight and watched its season end as top-ranked Old Dominion rushed to a 69-51 victory in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women's Southern Section championship game.
The Lady Monarchs won their 33rd game in 34 starts, courtesy of a fullcourt zone trap and a cold-shooting Maryland squad. ODU earned a trip to the AIAW's final four next weekend in Greensboro, N.C.
The Lady Monarchs will face defending champion UCLA, 92-73 winner tonight over Warland Baptist, in Fiday's national semifinal.
Louisiana Tech and Tennessee will also be in the final four.
"They deserve the No. 1 ranking," said Terp Coach Chris Weller. "Inge Nissen makes them a step ahead of all the other teams. She's excellent."
Nissen, the Lady Monarchs' 6-foot-5 junior center, scored 24 points to lead all scorers, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and sent seven Terp shots back to the factory for warranty work.
But Nissen was not the only Lady Monarch who spoiled Maryland's St. Patrick's Day. Junior point guard Nancy Lieberman and running mate Angela Gotman sparked a larcenous ODU defense that stole the ball 12 times, forced Maryland into 22 turnovers and limited the Terps to 38 percent from the field.
ODU forward Jan Trombly had two steals, Liberman one and Cotman one of seven in a five-minute span of the second half that enabled the Lady Monarchs to extend a two-point lead to 14, 58-44, with 5.17 left.
That told the tale for the seventhranked Terps (22-7), who had gamely fought back from an eight-point deficit. The Terrapins were forced to foul. Lieberman and Nissen combined to sink six free throws and Maryland was unable to reduce the deficit there-after.
"I just didn't think they were going to catch up," said Cotman. Our loss this season to South Carolina proved to us we're human. Up to that point, nobody in Norfolk thought we could be beaten. Since then, we've been playing more consistent ball."
Maryland scored the first two points on Betsy Bailey's eight-footer, but played the next four minutes as if in a daze, missing six shots. Bailey's 15-footer with 15:43 left made it ODU 6, Maryland 4.
Lieberman then began deflecting Terp shots and she and Cotman provided the offensive spark as ODU moved to a 20-9 lead. Nissen was being denied the ball in close by the guarding of Kris Kirchner. She then came out to the high post and began hitting the guards with backdoor passes for easy baskets.
Kirchner, the Terps leading scorer, missed seven of nine shots in the half and grabbed only two rebounds. Only Bailey's 12 points kept Maryland close at intermission, 37-31.
"We wanted to keep Kirchner off the boards and away from the ball to frustrate her," said Lieberman. "And, she did get frustrated."
ODU's fullcourt press did not directly produce many Terp miscues but it did force Maryland off its timing. The Terps were rarely able to work toward high-percentage shots as Nissen and Cotman intimidated Maryland's inside game.
"I think we wanted it more," said Cotman. "They're one of the better teams in the country but they appeared nervous."
Myra Waters steal and layup at the other end, plus two ODU turnovers caused by Maryland's fullcourt press helped Maryland pull to within two, 46-44. But missed layups by Debbie Stewart and Waters and the quartet of ODU steals kept the Terps scoreless while Lieberman's four points highlighted the 12-point ODU run.