- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

Following a 20-minute exercise in futility that resulted in 32 percent shooting, 11 turnovers and a 10-point deficit, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese chose the non-riot act route.

“We were making careless mistakes that were uncharacteristic of this team,” freshman Marissa Coleman said. “Coach B said, ‘Where’s the team I’ve been coaching all year? When are they going to show up?’ We took that to heart.”

By taking Frese’s calling-out to heart, the Terrapins proceeded to take it to Duke in the second half and overtime of Tuesday’s national championship game, rallying from a 13-point deficit to win 78-75 at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Terps showed up with 14:39 remaining in regulation. Shay Doron hit two free throws, and the comeback was on:

Runs of 5-0, 4-0, 5-0, 4-0, 6-2 and, in overtime, 4-0 to finish the game.

Fifty percent shooting.

Ten forced turnovers.

And a national championship.

If the unsung defining moment from the semifinal win over North Carolina was Coleman’s jarring pick on Alex Miller, Frese’s motivational speech and Maryland hearing the ruckus in the Duke locker room at halftime were the title game’s turning points.

“We actually fed off their confidence coming into halftime,” Doron said. “We were like, ‘Now it’s time to push them because they’re celebrating and thinking we’ll fold.’ You should have heard them cheering and yelling. The game wasn’t over. We were only down five possessions.”

Once the Terps got back on track offensively, Duke had no answer. Starting with Doron’s two free throws, Maryland scored on 19 of its final 26 regulation possessions.

“Maryland had the momentum for almost the entire second half,” Duke senior Monique Currie said. “We didn’t really get a chance on a run. And then they hit the big shot to take it into the overtime.”

Kristi Toliver’s 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds remaining in regulation forced the extra session.

The biggest shot in Maryland women’s basketball history was drawn up by assistant coach Jeff Walz and set up with picks from Coleman and Crystal Langhorne.

Duke led 70-67 with 18.8 seconds remaining when Maryland called a timeout. With three-plus minutes remaining, Frese and Walz called an on-ball screen play to see how Duke would defend it. The Blue Devils double-teamed the dribbler.

This time around, Toliver got possession. Duke guard Lindsey Harding was screened by Coleman near the top of the key. The Blue Devils switched, and Jessica Foley assumed coverage of Toliver — not a double team as the Maryland coaches expected. Toliver dribbled right, and Foley ran into the Langhorne screen. Now with a sliver of breathing room, Toliver stepped back and drained a 21-footer with the hand 6-foot-7 Alison Bales in her face.

As for those involved, this is how they described the play:

Walz: “After Marissa’s screen, I thought for sure they would double Kristi. She was meant to take the shot, but we were going to throw back to Marissa and then set a back screen and throw another skip pass if they had doubled Kristi.”

Frese: “We knew we were going to Kristi, and we knew she wanted to take the shot.”

Toliver: “I knew there would be an opening the second time around, so that’s why I used Crystal’s screen.”

Doron: “Alison probably figured Kristi couldn’t see the basket over her. But she doesn’t need a lot of daylight and she proved it.”

Foley: “We thought we had the championship. A huge shot by [Toliver] — it’s kind of what won them the game.”

The Blue Devils scored first in overtime and led 75-74 before Toliver and Coleman each hit two free throws in the final 34.2 seconds.

Toliver and Coleman — both freshman — combined for 26 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in the title game.

Both players return next year. along with Langhorne, Doron, Laura Harper, reserves Ashleigh Newman and Jade Perry and guard Kalika France, who missed this year because of injury. Transfer newcomers Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood from Tennessee and Christie Marrone from Virginia Tech add to that talent, making the Terps the favorite to repeat next year.

“That’s what I came here to do — we’ve crossed the first title off,” Toliver said.

Said Frese: “You hope that we’re building a dynasty here. But each and every season defines itself with their character and how they come together. It depends on our chemistry and how much you click.”

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