All season, the Maryland women's basketball team has done things the hard way. The Terrapins continued that tendency last night, nearly squandering a 10-point lead in the last two minutes before edging Kentucky, 83-82, at Cole Field House in the second round of the AIAW national tournament.
Pam Reaves and Myra Waters each scored 20 points for the ninth-ranked Terrapins (19-8), who move into the quarterfinals against Tennesse Tuesday in Knoxville. Tennessee defeated visiting Illinois State, 78-53, last night. Tuesday's winner advances to semifinals March 27 in Eugene, Ore.
Tennessee, ranked second nationally, defeated Maryland, 93-91, earlier this season at Cole Field House, and eliminated the Terrapins in last year's quarterfinals with a 93-76 victory.
Last night's Maryland collapse, one of several by the Terps this season, marred an otherwise fine performance. Maryland finally found a team that plays its game -- fast breaks and pressure defense -- and the home team slowly broke away from a 45-45 halftime tie to a 10-point lead, 83-73, with 2:03 left on a basket by Waters.
But Kentucky (25-6), runner-up in the Southeastern Conference to Tennessee, would not fold. Valerie Still, who had a game-high 32 points and 17 rebounds, scored on a three-point play with 1:35 left. Maryland threw the ball away and Kentucky's Lisa Collins sank a shot from 20 feet with 1:12 to play to make the score 83-78.
Kentucky scored twice more in the last 15 seconds before Maryland ran out the clock.
"We're still young," said Reaves, the only senior on the team. "We like to run, and when we slow things down with a lead, we lose our concentration."
The taller Wildcats were outrebounded, 27-15, in the second half after having a considerable advantage in the first. Kentucky's decision to play a man-to-man defense was questionable, as Maryland's quicker players had little difficulty scoring inside.
Reaves took advantage fo the lax Kentucky defense and had her finest game of the season. Most of her 20 points came on medium-range jump shots around the key and fast breaks. She also led the team with 10 assists.
Playing with a deep bruise in her left thigh, Waters also was superb. She made 10 of 11 shots, all seven in the first half. Reserve Jasmina Perazic (14 points) had several key baskets for Maryland, but she also turned over the ball twice in the last seconds when Kentucky was rallying.
Kentucky took a 53-49 lead early in the second half, but Reaves made four straight baskets and Perazic started to make her outside shots. After Kentucky tied the game for the last time, at 63 with 10:40 left, Perazic scored twice, Bo Pearman made a jumper from the key and Maryland led by six. The Terrapins continued to run and play pressure defense, twice taking 10-point leads before slumping.