The Maryland women's basketball team, which has been called a team with talent that is too young to realize its potential, found out today what it is capable of.
One day after defeating heavily favored North Carolina State, the Terrapins shocked third-ranked Virginia, 92-68, in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal game played before 1,690 at the Cumberland County Arena.
The next step for Maryland is Monday night's 7:30 championship game against North Carolina (22-7), which beat Wake Forest, 67-65. The favored Tar Heels defeated the Terrapins twice during the season, but so did the Cavaliers and Wolfpack.
Certainly, the Cavaliers (26-2), whose only previous loss was by two points to 17th-ranked North Carolina, virtually had clinched an NCAA playoff berth and did not have as much to lose tonight. But it is safe to say few of the spectators expected Maryland to annihilate Virginia, a team that had forced its opponents to turn over the ball 26 times per game in beating them by an average of 17 points.
But Maryland (16-12) was poised, not at all affected by the Cavaliers' well-known full-court press and productive fast break. In fact, it was the Terrapins who scored repeatedly on quick trips down the floor.
"We took a lot of losing getting used to college basketball," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller. "The biggest thing in college sports is continuing to be enthusiastic when you're losing. We turned the corner today.
"I felt all along we were competitive in the ACC. But I didn't know when they were going to find out how to do their best."
Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan, who said before the tournament that Maryland was the most dangerous team, couldn't find a reason for the Cavaliers' 35 percent shooting and 18 turnovers.
"Your guess is as good as mine," she said. "Life goes on. We'll be in the Final Four and make up for it. We didn't have it today, and they were hot. But the thing about it is that we were hot, too coming into the game . I thought it would be a close game.
"I don't think we played with our hearts for 40 minutes. But that's the first time in 27 games that we didn't play that way."
Freshman guard Deana Tate, running the fast break well and penetrating on offense, overshadowed her counterpart, Virginia all-America candidate Donna Holt. Tate scored a game-high 27 points and had five assists. Holt, who averages 16 points and five steals, had only six points and one steal.
When Tate wasn't scoring outside, freshman forward Vicky Bullett (16 points) and senior forward Chequita Wood (17) took the ball inside. Lisa Brown, who did a good job of getting the ball inside to Bullett and Wood, had 10 points and 11 assists.
Virginia, led by Laurie Carter's 16 points and Daphne Hawkins' 14, shot only 31 percent and had trouble getting back quickly on defense in the first half, when Maryland opened an 18-point lead.
The score was 13-12, Maryland, with six minutes played, before the Terrapins scored seven straight points, including a three-point play by Tate.
After Virginia came within seven, 28-21, on Dawn Bryant's rebound basket, Maryland ran off nine points. Wood made it 37-21 with a three-point play, and Virginia called a timeout with 5:17 left in the half.
Maryland led, 46-32, at halftime. Missed shots and turnovers kept Virginia from getting any closer. J. Madison 66, E. Carolina 62
In Wilmington, N.C., Alisa Harris scored 11 points to lead the Dukes in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship game.