- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Moments after the Maryland women’s basketball team ended a 14-game losing streak to Duke, clinched a spot in the ACC championship game for the first time in 13 years and virtually assured itself of a top seed in the NCAA tournament, Crystal Langhorne wanted to get something straightened out.

“I was the first to say in the locker room that we got the monkey off our backs,” she said after fourth-ranked Maryland’s 78-70 semifinal win over No.2 Duke at Greensboro Coliseum.

Indeed, Duke had become a large gorilla for the Terrapins. But led by the inside duo of Langhorne and Laura Harper and the freshman guard combo of Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, the mental block was overcome.

“Like we said in the locker room, we feel free,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

After leading by 15 early in the second half, Maryland found itself down a point with less than 10 minutes remaining after a 16-0 run by Duke, which gave the Blue Devils their first lead — 54-53 with 9:35 remaining.

But Maryland scored the next nine points and never looked back.

“We competed [at Duke on Feb. 13] for 38 minutes but didn’t finish the game,” Frese said of the 90-80 defeat. “We talked about competing, defending and rebounding for 40 minutes today. And that’s where the game was won.”

Maryland (28-3) will play top-ranked North Carolina (28-1) today at 1 p.m. The Tar Heels defeated N.C. State 90-69 in the other semifinal.

North Carolina’s only loss came to the Terps on Feb. 9 at Chapel Hill 98-95 in overtime.

“That game definitely gives us confidence, but at the same time, they’ll want revenge, so we’ll have to play an even better game than we did at their place,” Harper said.

Harper (a team-high 17 points) was one of four Maryland starters in double figures. Toliver and Coleman scored 16 points apiece, and Langhorne scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half.

Second-leading scorer Shay Doron was limited to 17 minutes because of a bruised thigh sustained in practice Wednesday. She has not started either game in the tournament.

Following a ho-hum first half that saw Maryland lead for all but 2:17, the second half was a free-for-all.

Maryland started the second half with a 15-6 run to lead 53-38.

But then it was Duke’s turn. During the Blue Devils’ 16-0 run, the Terps had six turnovers in seven possessions.

“I was thinking, ‘Thank goodness we had a cushion,’” Frese said. “We had a light moment there where we had a lot of breakdowns. Duke was extremely aggressive defensively and took it to us at the offensive end.”

But instead of folding under the pressure, Maryland flourished. Langhorne scored five points during the game-defining 9-0 run.

“It was time to feed it down low and find their weakness,” Toliver said. “That’s where they were struggling, so I put the ball in Lang and [Harper’s] hands. And they delivered.”

Toliver delivered five assists and played 39 minutes. With Doron on the sideline, Toliver and Coleman have had to take on added scoring responsibilities.

“They’ve done it all season long,” Frese said of Toliver and Coleman. “Neither one acts like a freshman. They really play beyond their years, and they always want to take the big shot, get after it on defense and are never satisfied with their game.”

Duke (26-3) was led by Monique Currie’s 18 points. She torched the Terps last month for 31 points.

“It’s extremely difficult to beat a great team three times, and I think Maryland is obviously one of the best teams in the country,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. “They played a tremendous game from start to finish.”

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