- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kalika France remembers being impressed by Crystal Langhorne when the latter was dominating the high school ranks.

Of course, she probably couldn’t have anticipated that Langhorne’s freshman year at Maryland would be nearly as impressive.

“I had a chance to see her in high school and how she was running over the kids there, so I knew she was going to have to make an adjustment,” said France, a sophomore guard for the Terrapins. “For it to be this spectacular is very good to see this year for our program and not at a North Carolina or Duke.”

Somehow, spectacular might be an understatement to describe the play of the 6-foot-3 Langhorne, who has thrived in her first season with the Terrapins. She has started every game and is averaging a double-double for seventh-seeded Maryland (21-9), which plays host to 10th-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-3) in the first round of the NCAA tournament’s Philadelphia regional today at Comcast Center.

It’s not at all unprecedented for freshmen to make an immediate impact at the college level. Just last season, guards France and Shay Doron helped the Terps win an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1992.

A freshman who immediately becomes an elite post player, though, is a bit uncommon.

“It’s such a rarity to find such a jewel and we’re lucky to have Crystal,” Doron said. “She just has unbelievable power as a freshman. It’s the power that most separates seniors from freshman, and Crystal had it naturally.”

Langhorne coasted to ACC rookie of the year honors after averaging 17 points and 10.5 rebounds, the first conference freshman to average a double-double since 1993-94. She is already Maryland’s freshman single-season scoring leader (511 points), and she likely will snare the three rebounds she needs to pass Kris Kirchner (316 rebounds in 1977-78) for the freshman record in that category today.

However, Langhorne does as much for the Terps’ potent perimeter game as she does on the inside. Her presence forces opponents to focus on her and concede a few 3-point baskets or pay a severe price in the paint.

“She demands a double-team and she’s so effective,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “She just continued to keep getting better and better. … I’ve seen not only her offensive game get a lot better, but her defensive game, and that’s exciting to see her complement both ends of the court.”

That improvement was evident throughout the Terps’ conference slate. Langhorne had eight of her 16 double-doubles against ACC foes in the regular season, then averaged 23.5 points and 16 rebounds in ACC tournament victories over Clemson and N.C. State.

“Our coaches started running some plays for me and my teammates were looking for me even more in the post, and I think I got more comfortable playing in the post,” Langhorne said. “I think I got more comfortable playing and I think I’m coming into my role more, and I think that’s what’s made it easier.”

Langhorne’s play could be key today against Wisconsin-Green Bay, a team that starts four seniors and thrives on its patience and strong perimeter game. The Phoenix, who yesterday downplayed grumbling that they might have been underseeded, are in the tournament for the seventh time in eight years.

That’s plenty to ensure Maryland remains wary of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which has won 21 of its last 22 en route to its fourth straight Horizon League championship. Still, the Terps are determined to surpass last year’s second-round appearance.

“There’s a lot of talk going on about our team, and hopefully we can just make it to the Sweet 16,” Langhorne said. “We don’t want to look ahead because [Wisconsin-Green Bay] is a great team.”

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