Terrapins Survive the Deacons
March 6, 2009
Top-seeded Maryland's zone defense held No. 9 Wake Forest to two free throws and two field goals in the final 9:50 today to repel a bid for an historic upset and claim a 72-70 victory in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals today.
The Demon Deacons led 63-51 after freshman point guard Brooke Thomas hit an 18-footer from the left wing with 9:51 left, but the Terrapins, winners of 10 straight games, got the Deacs in foul trouble and induced five important turnovers to fuel their surge. After Wake's Secily Ray made two free throws with 6:47 left to make it 65-59, the Terps went on an 11-0 run in 2:17 to advance to Saturday's semifinals.
"It was the change we needed to go to," coach Brenda Frese said of the zone. "They were giving us fits in our man-to-man."
Seniors Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver did most of the late damage; Coleman's breakaway layup with four minutes to go gave the Terps their first lead since 21.6 seconds remained in the first half, and it put them ahead for good.
Teams seeded first are now 25-0 over No. 9, but this one was considerably more interesting than most. The previous 24 had been decided by an average of 20.5 points. The Terps (26-4) will play No. 4 North Carolina in Saturday's first semifinal as they continue a quest for the program's first ACC Tournament title since 1989.
"It's the one thing we haven't accomplished since we've been here," said Coleman, who had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Terps. "We got the (2006) national championship, and we just recently won the regular-season title. This is the last item on the agenda."
The Deacons (19-11), who hope to continue the program's best season in two decades with a postseason invitation of some sort, admitted the Terps' 2-3 zone took them out of a rhythm that had built three leads of a dozen points.
"I think we just weren't aggressive enough when they went to the zone," said Thomas, who contributed 15 points and 11 assists. "We were contemplating shooting the 3-pointer or taking it to the basket, and we got caught up in what to do."
Another contributor was the unavailability of Wake center Corinne Groves, forced to the bench with her fourth foul by an alert Terrapin play. Groves, who led her team with 16 points, lost a shoe in a transition to defense, and the Terps isolated the player she was defending, Lynetta Kizer. Groves had no choice but to foul with 7:58 left. The Deacs were down one low-post option for the next four minutes.
The final minute featured strategic decisions that coaches seldom face. Down 70-67 with 30 seconds to play, the Deacs induced a miss and rebounded. The Terps' Marah Strickland reached in on Thomas and was called for a foul at midcourt. That's normally an unpardonable sin, but this time, it was almost certainly directed from the bench. Why? The foul was only Maryland's third of the half, and it prevented Wake from setting up its offense.
Deacs coach Mike Petersen called time out, perhaps concerned the Terps would continue the distraction with three additional non-shooting fouls. Frese said she thought about that but feared that, in the heat of the moment, a foul might coincide with a field-goal attempt. As it turned out, Wake was sort of hoping for such an event.
"We talked about two things," Petersen said. "We talked about setting up what we wanted to run, and we said that if you hear the whistle blow, you're supposed to throw the ball up as quickly as you can."
Maryland denied the 3-point opportunity without fouling and Thomas felt obligated to drive toward the hoop. Help-side defense forced an off-balance shot that the Terps rebounded and converted into the free throws that sealed it.
Kizer led the Terps with 16 points and Demauria Liles added 11.