Maryland won its fourth Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball championship in five years, defeating Clemson, 93-81, before 500 today at Reynolds Coliseum.
Clemson held a 69-66 lead with nine minutes to play, then guards Marcia Richardson and Jasmina Perazic began hitting jump shots over the Tigers' zone and helped 11th-ranked Maryland pull away.
"This game was much closer than 12 points," said Clemson Coach Annie Tribble. "Those last five minutes really did us in with Richardson and Perazic hitting the outside shots."
"This is the best one yet," said Coach Chris Weller, whose Terrapins shot 58 percent. "We've had a lot of bad luck this season, but probably all that adversity wound up paying off."
The victory put Maryland (22-6, 6-1) in the 32-team NCAA tournament that starts March 12. First round games are to be played on campus courts, with Maryland's Cole Field House a likely site for one except that the state high school tournament is scheduled there that day. The conflict in dates has not been resolved.
Richardson scored 22 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Center Belinda Pearman and Perazic were named to the all-tournament team. Pearman scored all her 22 points in the first half, making 10 of 12 shots, but took only three shots the second half. Perazic had 21 points.
Clemson (20-11, 4-3) took its three-point lead with 9:18 to play after forward Barbara Kennedy made a 10-foot jumper. Richardson and Perazic ruined Clemson's zone defense with their outside jumpers, most coming from at least 20 feet, then senior forward Myra Waters grabbed an offensive rebound and scored at 3:27. Richardson was fouled on the shot and sank the free throw for an 81-75 lead.
"I have never seen a woman jump so high," said Weller. "That was a critical play."
Kennedy made it 81-77 on a 10-foot jump shot. But Richardson sank a 25-footer, then made two steals and passed to guard Debbie Lytle for baskets. Richardson's foul shot put the Terrapins ahead, 90-77, with 1:15 remaining.
"This is the best one," said a beaming Waters. "Because I didn't get to play in the first one. Really, this year was the best. We wanted it so much, there was no way we were going to lose."
Kennedy, who leads the nation in scoring with a 28.7 average, had 33 points for Clemson.
"Great, we held her to 33 points," Weller said, laughing. Kennedy scored 41 points in a loss to Maryland earlier this season.
Tiger freshman center Peggy Caple used her 6-4 height to score 22 points. Kennedy and guard Mary Anne Cubelic, who had 18, also were named to the all-tournament team.
Maryland held Clemson scoreless for the game's first three minutes and Waters' layup gave her team a 10-2 lead with 16:30 left in the half. But Caple and Kennedy rallied the Tigers and the score was 43-35, Maryland, at the half.