Old Dominion Coach Marianne Stanley shook her head. Stars Nancy Lieberman and Inge Nissen shook their heads.
The defending national champions and first-ranked team in the nation had just squeaked past the Maryland women, 66-58, at Madison Square Garden last night.
Old Dominion is not supposed to squeak past the opposition.
"I don't expect to play our best every night," said Stanley, "but we weren't even close. We are an experienced team and we didn't take charge."
The Terps, coming into New York excited, ready and, especially, young, led most of the first half and were still in the game with less than three minutes remaining.
"if we were ahead or tied in the last three minutes, we could have won," said Terp Coach Chris Weller. "But when we fell down a little we choked. Look this game was our first biggie, I can't complain. We really controlled their inside game."
Going against 6-foot-7 Nissen and 6-foot-Anne Donovan, Weller was worried about the Monarch inside game. In the first half, Donovan and Nissen scored a total of eight points and were swarmed over throughout.
In the second, the Monarch inside game went outside.
"When they moved Inge outside and she hit all those jumpers, that's what turned the game around," said Weller. "That loosened our zone."
Nissen hit four shots from deep in the corner early in the second half as a 28-28 intermission tie turned into a 49-40 Monarch lead with eight minutes remaining.
The Terps, seemingly on the edge of extinction, fought back behind their inside strength -- Kris Kirchner and Krystal Kimrey, who scored six points each and cut the lead to 56-52 with three minutes reamining. However, with the ball and the momentum, Donovan blocked a Kirchner shot, got the rebound and was fouled by Kirchner. Donovan hit both shots and the Monarchs guarded their lead until the buzzer sounded.
Nissen and All-American Lieberman led the Monarchs with 18 points each, Guard Rhonda Rompola added 16, many coming from the outside in situations where Old Dominion's offense wasn't penetrating. Kirchner led the Terps with 18.
Lieberman, the New York native who reeled off some bizarre fast-break passes in the first half (most of which ended in glown layups), said, "it never occurred to me that we'd lose the game. It was hard to concentrate with all the media and friends and Madison Square Garden. Well, not hard for me because I'm used to it, but hard for some of the other players."
Liberman, with 12 points, was all that kept Old Dominion close in the first half. Nissen scored just six points in the half and was swarmed by the Maryland zone. Donovan, averaging 19 points per game, did not get off a shot in the first 17 minutes and scored on just two foul shots before halftime. Donovan scored 10 points in the secnd half.
"Anne, like the rest of us, looked intimidated in the first half," said Standley. "She asserted herself in the second half."
The Terps, off to a 16-12 early lead and looking sharp, were led by the playmaking of Debbie Lytle. However, she got in early foul trouble trying to keep up with Lieberman and sat out the remainder of the half.
"We were pretty terrible," said Nissen, "but I guess we needed a game like this."
Stanley added, "Maryland is a great team and I expected a close game. I just expect us to play much better than that every game."
In a replay of the national championship game of 1979, Old Dominion will go up against Louisiana Tech in the final of the Manufacturers Hanover Tournament Sunday. Tech managed to beat Rutgers, 89-83, in overtime.
Lieberman said, "We'll be sharper against Louisiana. We won't have all the distractions. I always socialize before games but things got a little out of hand tonight."
Maryland will face Rutgers in the consolation game Sunday at 11 a.m.