The magic of the Maryland women's basketball team finally ran out today before 5,309 fans at Ohio State's St. John Arena. The Terrapins lost to the 13th-ranked Buckeyes, 87-71, in an NCAA tournament second-round game that was close until the final minutes.
Foul trouble and, possibly, the Buckeyes' home-court advantage were too much for the Terrapins, who led at halftime, 44-38, and had a five-point advantage with nine minutes to play before buckling.
The Buckeyes (23-6) hit six straight points late in the game to break it open. They won in much the same way Maryland had done away with its three straight upset victims in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament last week, coming up with key steals and running the Terrapins ragged.
The ACC tournament was on an at least nominally neutral court, in Fayetteville, N.C. Today, things were a bit different for the Terrapins, who finished 17-13. Almost everyone in the on-campus building was wearing scarlet and gray, and sounding like it.
"Usually when we have that lead, we play well," said Maryland senior forward Chequita Wood, who started along with three freshmen and a sophomore. "Sometimes when the other team gets the lead, we don't play as well."
The Terrapins ran into deep foul trouble, losing Subrena Rivers, Lisa Brown and Carolin Dehn-Duhr with five. Guard Deana Tate, who led Maryland with 22 points on nine-for-25 shooting, and forward Vicky Bullett each had four.
The Buckeyes, advancing to the Mideast regional semifinals Thursday at Iowa City, took full advantage. Ohio State got superb play from its bench and freshman forward Nikita Lowry, who scored a career-high 26 points and made several key outside shots during the Buckeyes' run. Another freshman, reserve forward Geneva Sanford, scored all of her 13 points in the second half.
"I think we looked young, hesitant and rattled, and that's what we were," said Maryland Coach Chris Weller, making her fourth NCAA tournament appearance since its inception in 1980-81.
"We tried to force up shots and they had quick players, so we didn't get second shots. We got flustered when we lost our lead. We shot the ball too quickly when we didn't have anybody to rebound."
Asked if she thought her team lost its composure, Bullett, who was on the bench with four fouls when the Buckeyes started their rally, said: "It's hard to say. I don't think we lost it. I didn't give up."
Maryland appeared to be in control when Tate made two steals and layups within a minute to give her team a 28-23 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half.
With Bullett on the bench in the second half, the Terrapins were trying to hold off the Buckeyes. They succeeded for a while with fine play from reserve center Dehn-Duhr. When Brenda Mason made two free throws with nine minutes to play, Maryland led, 60-55.
But Lowry made a shot in the lane and Jodi Roth's two free throws cut the lead to one. Mason, a freshman who had not played much this season, tossed a pass that was stolen by Sanford, who passed to Lowry for a basket and an Ohio State lead.
"I read the ball all the way," said Sanford. "I saw her eyes and went after it."
Tate missed a layup on Maryland's next possession, and Sanford made a 10-footer. Maryland called a timeout, which didn't help much, as the Buckeyes went ahead, 69-63, with five minutes to play on Sanford's steal and layup.
Brown made two 15-footers to bring the Terrapins back to a two-point deficit at 4:20, but bad shots and turnovers hurt Maryland thereafter as Ohio State scored six straight points.
"I knew it was going to go down to the wire," said Weller. "We really lost our composure with 2:58 left and six down when Maryland called a timeout . It was like we didn't call a timeout at all."
Said Wood, after her last game at Maryland: " Foul trouble was bothering the flow. They were calling it close both ways. It just seemed we got a few more fouls."
Iowa missed a place in the Iowa City regionals, losing to Tennessee, 73-68, in Knoxville. LaTrenda Phillips scored 21 points to lead Oklahoma (24-6) to a home victory, 86-67, over Vanderbilt and a date with No. 1 Texas (29-0) in the Midwest regional Thursday at Austin. No. 3 Southern California (28-4) turned back Montana, 81-50, at Los Angeles, earning a West berth against North Carolina Thursday in Long Beach, Calif. The Trojans won without all-America Cheryl Miller, who broke a finger on her left hand in practice last week.