- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Maryland coach Brenda Frese is confident her Terrapins can turn in a performance tonight similar to the one that eliminated defending NCAA women’s basketball champion Baylor on Saturday.

“It was one of our best games, obviously,” Frese said. “But I think they’ll be pretty excited about this game. They’re going to be playing to get to the Final Four for the first time. They’ll have no trouble getting up for that.”

Second-seeded Maryland (31-4) will face No. 5 seed Utah tonight at the Pit.

It’s a venue the Utes (27-6) play in every season as members of the Mountain West Conference. But the Terps appeared the most comfortable there Saturday, executing almost flawlessly to reach the regional final while Utah struggled in turning away Boston College.

Particularly efficient was Maryland center Crystal Langhorne, who missed only four of 18 shots and overpowered Baylor’s man-to-man defense. She finished with 34 points to tie a career high.

“I can’t say enough about her,” Frese said.

Utah does not have a post player who can match Langhorne’s physical presence inside, but it is hoping to limit the sophomore’s free reign under the basket with a combined effort.

“We’ll play a lot of help defense,” Utah guard Heidi Carlsen said. “We don’t have a strong post person, so we’re all going to have to help out. We’re going to have to play team defense.”

Maryland’s defense will focus on Kim Smith, the four-time Mountain West player of the year who had an uncharacteristically poor night from the field against Boston College, shooting 3-for-13 for a season-low seven points.

“I don’t really know where my shot went,” Smith said. “But I’m confident it will be back for the next game. … It’s never been just about myself having to score a bunch of points. We’ve always been able to do it in other ways.”

Although attendance could be more than 7,000 for the game — with most of the locals likely backing the regional Utes — Frese said she’s not too concerned about nerves.

“I think we got that out of our systems early on,” she said. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to advance.”

As for the players, they are confident.

“We’re feeling very good,” point guard Kristi Toliver said. “I think we were playing for respect, and we finally got it. I think we won pretty convincingly. We played well offensively and defensively, which may have shocked a few people who said we couldn’t.”

And the Terps realize Utah will be gunning for them with a Final Four berth on the line.

“We know everyone is coming out here playing their best,” Langhorne said. “We are still going to have to come out and play great defense and rebound like we did [Saturday].”

Now it’s just a matter of moving up the next rung of the ladder.

“Of course, we thought we could win the national championship the whole year,” Langhorne said. “I think this has just given us more confidence.”

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