- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Laura Harper had six of her eight points in overtime, and the Maryland women’s basketball team controlled the tempo in the extra session to beat Utah and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1989.

The second-seeded Terrapins finally found their inside game to overpower the No. 5 Utes 75-65 in front of 6,823 mostly partisan Utah backers.

“What a tremendous, hard-fought match,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

Harper got the first two baskets of overtime, banking in both shots within the first minute to push Maryland (32-4) ahead 67-65.

“Our confidence in overtime is something that is out of this world,” she said.

The Utes scored their only two points of overtime on foul shots from Morgan Warburton with 2:08 left, but after that, it was all Maryland.

Terps freshman point guard Kristi Toliver not only ran the offense with six assists and just one turnover, she also finished with a career-high 28 points, nine more than her previous best.

“I kind of got into a rhythm,” she said with a shrug. “I wasn’t trying to force anything. Even during practice, I didn’t shoot much. … I don’t know why it happened but I’m grateful, happy and relieved.”

And with the Utah defense sagging on Crystal Langhorne whenever she touched the ball, the Terps needed Toliver’s playmaking and outside shooting. She finished 6-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc.

She sparked Maryland’s outside effort early. In a 2:14 span, Toliver, Marissa Coleman and Ashleigh Newman all hit 3-pointers, staking Maryland to a 12-8 lead six minutes into the game.

Maryland didn’t hit another 3 until a minute remained in the half when Toliver found the mark again.

Although their typical inside offense deserted them in the first half, the Terps were still playing strong defense, particularly on four-time Mountain West player of the year Kim Smith, who didn’t score and went 0-for-6 before the break.

But Smith and Toliver both had their shots working in the second half and waged a three-minute, back-and-forth game of one-upmanship. Smith had 12 straight points for the Utes, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Toliver responded with eight straight points for the Terps, with two 3s of her own.

It appeared Maryland was ready to put the game away midway through the second half when it took its biggest lead at 53-44 after Langhorne took a bullet pass from Toliver and laid it in, capping a 9-2 run in which she had six points. She finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

But the Terps continued to shoot from the outside, and the shots stopped dropping.

With Maryland holding a 61-54 lead, Utah went on an 8-2 run to make it a one-point game with 1:55 left.

Langhorne failed to convert the front-end of a one-and-one with a minute left, and Coleman missed a short one with 32 seconds left.

That left an opening for the Utes.

Shona Thorburn was fouled on a drive to the basket with 7.8 seconds left. But her first free throw caught the side of the rim and rolled off. She made the second to force the extra session.

Toliver and Shay Doron both had a chance to win it in regulation, but each missed a short jumper in the final seconds. Doron hit the floor hard after her miss but didn’t get a foul call.

“This is a special team after what we had to overcome to win this game,” Frese said.

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