What has traditionally been an opening-season warmup became a surprisingly close matchup last night for the 18th-ranked University of Maryland women's basketball team. The Terrapins battled turnovers and cold shooting more than American for most of the game, before finally grouping together long enough to defeat the Eagles, 66-43, at Cole Field House.

Maryland has beaten American three straight times. This, however, was not a typical Terrapin victory.

American, 10-18 last year, managed to lead, 32-31, with 14:55 left in the contest, helped by the fact that Maryland missed its first eight shots of the second half.

"For the first time our people were not intimidated," said American Coach Linda Ziemke. "We knew if we played hard, good things would happen."

Jonette Niles made a 10-foot jump shot at 11:45 to give the Terrapins their first field goal of the half and a 34-32 lead. Maryland then continued to force the Eagles into turnovers (25 in the game compared to 19 for Maryland) and ran off an 18-4 streak to lead, 49-36, with 5:40 left.

Maryland, which made just 27 of 73 field goal tries (37 percent), was led by Chequita Wood (17 points, nine rebounds) and Niles, who scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Six-foot-five freshman Carolin Dehn-Duhr added seven points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the inexperienced Terrapins.

"In the second half, we went back to basics and were able to run some semblance of an offense," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller. "The players need to feel a little success."

The Terrapins relied primarily on basic man-to-man and 2-1-2 zone defense to pressure the Eagles into 16 percent second-half shooting (three of 19). Sophomore guard Jody Thorton kept American close in the first half and finished with 16 points before leaving the contest with two minutes remaining because of leg cramps. The Terrapins led, 29-26, despite 33 percent first-half shooting.