- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

SPOKANE, Wash. — Following two NCAA tournament victories that were light on style and heavy on sluggishness, the Maryland women’s basketball team vowed traveling 2,500 miles across the country would be the perfect elixir.

Turns out they were right.

Back on the road, the Terrapins got back in sync last night with a 80-66 win over Vanderbilt in a regional semifinal game at Spokane Arena.

“I could sense it from our last game at home that there was a relief,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Just coming out here, we’ve had great practices leading up to the game and I definitely think being able to play so freely makes a big difference in our play.”

Top-seeded Maryland (33-3) advanced to the regional final tomorrow at 9 p.m. against Stanford or Pittsburgh. The Terrapins are one win away from their second Final Four in three seasons.

Maryland never trailed, jumped to an 11-2 advantage, led by 15 at halftime and by as many as 22 points in the second half.

Senior Crystal Langhorne benefited from several pinpoint entry passes from point guard Kristi Toliver, hitting 12 of her 18 shots and scoring 28 points. Marissa Coleman scored 19, Marah Strickland 13 and Laura Harper 11.

Toliver finished with eight points, eight assists and one turnover.

The Terrapins’ 80 points was the second-most allowed by Vanderbilt this season and their 50.9 shooting percentage was the third-highest by a Commodores opponent.

Langhorne’s output was her best in two months. She scored eight of Maryland’s first 11 points. Toliver, who missed 14 of 20 shots against Nebraska in the second round, became a distributor first and a shooter second. By the time she took her first shot — a layup with 18.3 seconds left in the first half — she already had six assists.

“I felt like Tom Brady,” Toliver said. “Everybody was connecting. We had great chemistry and I was just trying to get it to everybody. I had a lot of fun seeing them succeed and finish plays.”

Said Frese: “She was a floor general for us. She really set the tone with her presence and poise and the amount of touches she was able to get for Crystal. She was really key in terms of our overall game.”

An efficient Maryland offense was too much for Vanderbilt. The Commodores entered having held opponents to 36.3 percent shooting and 55.9 points. Maryland eclipsed that average with 13:50 remaining on Strickland’s third 3-pointer of the game.

Strickland had scored only 20 points in the last five games. Two of her 3-pointers came during an 11-2 run midway through the first half that gave Maryland a 28-13 lead.

“Marah had struggled the past couple games, but she came up big,” Coleman said. “She hit a couple key 3s and they were demoralizing for them and were daggers.”

Maryland’s defense also made a difference in the first half. Vanderbilt shot only 10-for-29 in the opening half and finished shooting 38.7 percent. Harper contained leading scorer Christina Wirth (5-for-11 shooting).

“We wanted to make a conscious effort to get stops, especially the guards,” Coleman said. “Tonight, [positions] 1-5, everybody was into the game and communicating. We got stop after stop.”

The closest Vanderbilt got in the second was 12 points (47-35) with 17:15 remaining, but Toliver scored on consecutive possessions to end the threat.

“We were excited and ready to come out and play some of our best basketball,” Frese said. “It was just a tremendous job on the offensive end. We were unselfish with each play we made.”

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