- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

On the day Maryland seniors Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman became the winningest class in school history, it seemed only fitting the Terrapins‘ storied pair had one of their most impressive performances yet.

Toliver and Coleman combined to score 58 points in No. 9 Maryland’s 77-59 win over No. 7 Duke on Sunday that pushed the Terrapins’ homecourt winning streak to 33 games.

Toliver finished with a game-high 34 points, and Coleman added 24 points and 10 rebounds as they grabbed their program-best 118th career win.

“Any time you can play Duke, it’s a lot of fun,” Coleman said. “It was the last time we could play them in front of this crowd. … We just wanted to make it a special night, and Kristi and I almost outscored them, so I think that’s a pretty special evening.”

One of the subplots entering the game would be which team could impose its will on the other. The defensive-minded Blue Devils got it their way in a physical, low-scoring first-half. But the high-octane Terrapins, led by their dynamic seniors, pushed the tempo to a style of their liking while taking control in the second.

After the Terps finished their warmups before the second half started, coach Brenda Frese, unimpressed with their first-half performance, greeted them with a harsh reminder that “This is our house!”

“Right before they came over to me, I was really fired up,” Frese said. “This is our building, and we were gonna come out, and we were gonna defend, and we were gonna be tougher and play inspired for each other.”

No Maryland players heard the message more clearly than Coleman and Toliver, who combined for Maryland’s first 27 points in the second half and in the process turned a 33-31 halftime deficit into a 58-46 lead.

Their 10-0 run to open the final 20 minutes turned out to be most decisive.

First it was a Coleman jumper. Then one from Toliver. Then Toliver hit a 3-pointer. On Duke’s next possession, Toliver intercepted a pass and found Coleman for a 3-pointer of her own.

The outburst took less than three minutes and forced Duke coach Joanne McCallie to take a timeout. But it was too late - the Terps had the momentum and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Nothing the Blue Devils attempted could slow down the Terps’ pair. They tried a 1-2-1-1 fullcourt press. They tried matching up man-to-man at halfcourt. They even tried to guard Toliver with fullcourt man-to-man defense.

But the duo kept scoring. Toliver’s array of shot-making and seemingly limitless range was on display all game. When Duke’s defense sagged, she hit pull-up jumpers. When the Blue Devils played her tight, she took a few quick dribbles and hit her signature fadeaway. And when Duke overcommitted, she blew past her defender for easy layups. The 5-foot-7 guard from Harrisonburg went 12-for-21, including 7-for-13 from beyond the arc.

Where Toliver used speed and quickness, Coleman took advantage of her versatility. The Terps used a plethora of screens to free up Coleman. If a bigger defender was on her, she coolly hit a midrange shot. If faced with a smaller defender, she turned to her inside game.

Simply put, Toliver and Coleman exploited whatever matchup they were faced with. Fittingly, they exited the game together with 1:11 remaining to a standing ovation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stat sheet with 34 and 24 from the two guard spots,” McCallie said. “That’s pretty remarkable and obviously speaks to some very, very nice things that they did and some very, very poor defense that we played in the second half.”

Maryland (23-4, 10-2 ACC) now sits alone in second place in the ACC. Florida State (23-5, 11-1) avoided an upset bid by Miami earlier Sunday to hold on to the top spot, while the Blue Devils (22-4, 9-3) dropped to third.

“I’m glad we were able to play well together at home,” Toliver said. “That’s the most important thing, especially when it’s against Duke in front of a big crowd. It was a lot of fun.”

Note - Senior Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood left the team this weekend, citing personal reasons. She will stay enrolled at Maryland and is expected to graduate in May.

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