Maryland Holds Off Duke To Advance To ACC Tournament Final
March 4, 2006
By DAVID DROSCHAK
GREENSBORO - Maryland couldn't have picked a better time to end five years of frustration against No. 2 Duke, withstanding a furious second-half rally by the Blue Devils for a 78-70 victory to advance to the ACC Women's Tournament championship game.
The fourth-ranked and third-seeded Terrapins (28-3) will now face No. 1 and defending ACC champion North Carolina in Sunday's title game. Maryland was the only team to beat the Tar Heels this season in overtime in Chapel Hill on Feb. 9.
"They will have the revenge factor going for them so we know we're going to have to bring our A game to beat them," said Maryland star Crystal Langhorne, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Blue Devils.
The victory snapped a 14-game losing streak against Duke (26-3) and avenged a 30-point loss to the Blue Devils in last year's semifinals. Maryland's last win against Duke came on Feb. 2, 2000.
"It's about time. We feel free," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese.
"I was the first one to say, 'We've got the monkey off our back,"' added Langhorne.
Maryland led by six at halftime and appeared well on its way to the ACC title game for the first time since 1993 after a 15-6 run put them up 53-38 with 13:32 left.
But the Blue Devils didn't go away easy, going on a 16-0 run of their own to take a one-point lead with 9:35 left as the partisan Duke crowd was whipped into a frenzy.
"I was thinking, 'Thank goodness we have a cushion here,"' Frese said.
Langhorne and fellow inside player Laura Harper then gave the Terrapins the boost it needed over the next three minutes. Langhorne scored on two layups and Harper, who scored 17 points, added a three-point play and a follow shot for a 9-0 run that gave Maryland the confidence it needed down the stretch.
"Once we got the lead we were anxious and we took two quick shots and then they came down the scored," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We made our run and they withstood it."
Duke never got closer than six points the rest of the way as Maryland, the ACC's second-best free-throw shooting team, made 14 foul shots over the final 4:52 to secure the key win.
ACC freshman of the year Marissa Coleman was also big for Maryland, getting 16 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
"It's a special win for us to get into the championship game," Frese said when asked about breaking the program's long losing streak against the Blue Devils. "Duke has made us a better team. They have made us work harder.
"I'm just proud of our composure," she added. "This was one of our best 40-minute games."
Monique Currie led Duke with 18 points, but she was just 6-for-17 from the field as the Blue Devils shot only 35.9 percent.
"It's always difficult to beat a team three times," Goestenkors said. "It's extremely difficult to beat a great team three times."
Duke, which had been in the ACC title game six straight years, must now regroup heading into the NCAA Tournament after losing two of its last three games.
"We just lost to two great teams," said Goestenkors, noting that the other recent loss was to North Carolina. "People are looking at our record thinking we're on a downslide, but there is no other team in the country that has had the schedule we've had. We've had the roughest ACC schedule.
"I'm not worried. Every time we've lost I think we've learned."