It’s difficult to envision the Maryland women’s basketball program without Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, two mainstays of the past four years with a national championship and 115 victories and counting to their credit.
Of course, there are times like Thursday night when the Terrapins wouldn’t want to fathom life without their two senior stars.
Coleman had 28 points and moved into second on Maryland’s career scoring list, and Toliver added 25 points as the No. 11 Terrapins handled No. 17 Virginia 94-78 at Comcast Center. It was the first time both Coleman and Toliver scored 25 points in the same game.
“What I love seeing is how they’re playing with each other,” coach Brenda Frese said. “They mean so much to this program through their careers. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that they’re going to be graduating soon.”
Maryland (20-4, 8-2 ACC) clinched its school-record fifth straight 20-win season and pulled within a half-game of league leader Florida State. The No. 14 Seminoles host No. 8 North Carolina on Friday.
Aisha Mohammed (18 points) was one of five players to score in double figures for the Cavaliers (19-6, 5-4), who have lost their past six trips to College Park. This time around, they were set up for a rough night; Coleman and Toliver had a head start for their sizzling evening, teaming up for the shooting competition during an afternoon shootaround.
“We were dominating, so it didn’t surprise me at all,” Toliver said.
Virginia’s balance and control of the offensive glass (including a 25-7 edge in second-chance points) was more than counteracted by the ability of Coleman and Toliver to exploit their first opportunities on each possession.
“We just missed a couple times; we missed on who had them,” Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. “We just weren’t very organized out there at times tonight.”
The Cavaliers, 89-81 winners in the teams’ first meeting last month in Charlottesville, resisted Maryland’s early attempts to close out a high-tempo game. The Terps held an eight-point lead about a minute before the break, but Virginia scrambled to earn a 51-50 edge with 14:18 remaining.
From there, Coleman and Toliver took care of matters. Coleman drilled a 3-pointer to erase Virginia’s final lead, and Toliver scored the next time down the floor to continue what became a 9-0 run.
A pair of Marah Strickland 3-pointers created some separation, but Coleman and Toliver helped finish things off. Toliver zipped a pass from the backcourt precisely to Coleman, who coolly finished as Toliver pumped her first and smiled wryly as Maryland bumped its lead to 75-63.
Moments later, Coleman made two free throws to move past Vicky Bullett (1,928 points) for second on Maryland’s career list. Coleman has 1,931 points with five regular-season games and the ACC and NCAA tournaments still to come. Crystal Langhorne (2,247) holds the school record.
That’s the balance of the two stars’ careers, and there are greater achievements they would like to add than simply giving Maryland a pair of 25-point scorers for the first time since Langhorne and Laura Harper both hit the plateau in a rout of Clemson last season.
Then again, strong nights from Coleman and Toliver usually portend welcome results for the Terps.
“When we’re playing that well, then everybody clicks,” Coleman said. “Dee [Liles] plays well. Lynetta [Kizer] plays well. I think when we challenge them, they definitely step up to the plate.”