Sophomore guard Debbie Lytle led a marked second-half turnaround as the Maryland women's basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament tonight with a 72-49 victory over Duke.
The third-seeded Terrapins (12-6), ranked 12th nationally, will play second-seeded Virginia (19-5), a 61-49 victor over Georgia Tech, in one semifinal game Friday at 9 p.m. The 7 p.m. semifinal game will match top-seeded Clemson (20-5) aginst defending champion N.C. State, which beat North Carolina, 77-64 tonight. Clemson beat Wake Forest easily tonight, 90-58.
Lytle missed most of the first half after spraining her left ankle with three minutes gone and Maryland leading, 6-4. Without their best ball handler, the already-ailing Terrapins suffered through a miserable first half. hThey turned over the ball 13 times and missed 16 of 24 field goal attempts. Only a more pitiful performance by Duke (10-12) enabled Maryland to lead at halftime, 24-17.
But Lytle, whose flamboyant style sometimes hurts the Terrapins more than it helps, got Maryland going by directing a 13-2 spurt in the first three minutes of the second half. Lytle first hit a 25-foot jumper with 30 seconds gone, then fed Myra Waters and Marcia Richardson for quick transition baskets.
Stacy Hurd countered with two foul shots with 18:18 left to cut the Maryland margin to 30-18, but Terp center Lydia McAliley, who scored all of her 15 points in the second half, made a nice inside move for a basket. Lytle fed Richardson for another basket with 17:02 left, then stole the ball 15 seconds later.
She hit McAliley with a spectaclular pass from under the Duke basket that the center grabbed at the foul line and converted into a three-point play. Maryland led, 37-18, with 16:47 left and was never seriously threatened thereafter.
"The running game is what I do best," said Lytle. "We simply had to get it going." Lytle, who said she expects to play against Virginia Friday, finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals -- all in 18 minutes.
While Lytle was sitting out the first half with her injury, cocaptain Waters kept the Terrapins from falling apart with four steals and seven and rebounds. The five-foot-10 junior forward ended the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds, highs for both teams.
"We weren't doing anything differently in the second half -- tactically, at least," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller. "We were just trying to put the pieces together. We had no transition. We were also feeling sorry for ourselves because Duke was holding us and the officials weren't calling it. We were standing around and sulking."
Virginia, ranked 16th nationally, didn't look much better in its afternoon game with seventh-seeded Georgia Tech. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Tech's ineptitude enabled Virginia to stay in the game until it could right itself.
Leading at the half, 32-25, Virginia gradually pulled away on the outside shooting of Jill McKone (five for six from the floor, 12 points) and Melissa Mahony (10 points), a junior from O'Connell high school.