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March 4, 2010
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Despite losing most of a 16-point lead and having four players burdened with four fouls apiece, the ninth-seeded Terrapins claimed an 83-77 ACC Tournament first round victory over the No. 8 Tar Heels.
"We kept playing hard," said center Lynetta Kizer, who led the Terps with 22 points. "We didn't worry about the whistle. We just played Maryland basketball."
That was ultimately enough to put the Terps (19-11) into Friday's 3 p.m. quarterfinal against top-seeded Duke. It was undeniably interesting, however.
With 5:28 left, Terp forward Diandra Tchatchouang picked up her fourth foul and joined Kizer, Jackie Nared and Tianna Hawkins in that category. Coach Brenda Frese kept them all out there together until the final two minutes and hoped.
"We did a tremendous job of not letting foul trouble impact us," Frese said. "We kept playing through it."
Kizer did all her damage - 22 points and 10 rebounds - in just 22 minutes. The Heels' runs coincided almost directly with her absence.
It became clear that Maryland would probably have to win this thing in regulation. Another five minutes might have stretched personnel beyond normal, viable limits.
Carolina sliced the deficit to four points with Kizer on the bench. Frese put her best player back on the floor at the 5:28 mark, and on three consecutive possessions, Kizer delivered two post moves and an assist on Nared's 3-pointer to build the Terp advantage back to 10.
Carolina (18-11) wouldn't go away. Behind guard Cetera DeGraffenreid, whose six steals were two off the tournament record, the Heels made another charge. DeGraffenreid's layup with 12.5 seconds to play made it 79-77 - UNC's closest standing since the game's second minute.
The Heels' remarkably quick point guard nearly got her seventh theft of the night thereafter, but she had to commit her fifth foul instead. Terp sophomore Kim Rodgers' two free throws with 10.1 ticks left put Maryland up four, and a subsequent steal secured it altogether.
"I thought our team showed tremendous grit," Frese said.
As a result, it elevated its NCAA tournament resume. The Terps began the day 48th in the RPI and figure to move up with the win over the Heels, who were 30th. A win over the Blue Devils today would probably cement an invitation to the 64-team field.
"They got us at their home, and they got us at our place, but I know our coaches are going to have us prepared," Kizer said. "I'm confident. I'm ready to go.
Carolina should be fairly confident of its NCAA chances. There is no direct precedent for denying an ACC team in UNC's general RPI neighborhood.