Maryland beat Rutgers, 79-70, to win the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women's basketball title last night at Cole Field House.
The Terps earned a bye in the first round of the AIAW national tournament and will open Saturday night in Baltimore.
The Terps, who beat Cheyney State after a contested official's ruling in the last seconds Friday night, left no doubts last night.
Jublilant Terp Coach Chris Weller said, "We checked the Friday night videotape of the call and the referee made the proper call. I told my players that in no way, shape or form did they back into tonight's final. Winning tonight means we reached our goal of winning the regional tournament. Now we've set the goal of getting to the final four."
After sixth-ranked Rutgers and Maryland played a tight opening nine minutes, the Terps exploded behind center Krystal Kimrey. Tied at 14, the Terps ran off a 19-6 burst in which Kimrey dominated the inside, scoring eight points. The Terps upped their lead to 35-21 before taking a 38-29 halftime lead.
Maryland opened the second half with another flurry, jumping ahead, 46-31, in the first two minutes. They kept the lead between 10 and 15 points until the last three minutes of the game when the Rutgers offense started clicking. The Knights cut the lead to 74-68 with 42 seconds left, but two foul shots by Kimrey and a three-point play by Pam Reaves clinched the game.
"You don't let Rutgers get back in a game," said Weller. "They have such great shooters. They don't even run an offense, they just stop and pop. We rotated our zones well and that's what cooled them off."
Kimrey led the Terps with 22 points, hitting nine of 12 shots while Kris Kirchner had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Rutgers (26-4) was led by Joanne Burke's 21 points. The loss broke a 16-game winning streak for the Knights, who lost by a point to the Terps earlier in the season.
"My team doesn't know how good they can be," said Weller. "I know how good they can be, but they don't. When they find out, they'll be really dangerous."
The Terps are now two victories away from the final four. It was the first time the Terps have won the Eastern title.