- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

DURHAM, N.C. — There was a highlight buried in the midst of the refuse.

Improbably, Maryland’s 5-foot-7 point guard Kristi Toliver blocked a shot by Duke’s 6-foot-7 center Alison Bales in the first half of yesterday’s showdown between the No. 1 Terrapins and the No. 3 Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Other than that, the afternoon was a waste for the Terps.

In the teams’ first meeting since Maryland claimed the NCAA championship with an overtime victory last April, Duke point guard Lindsey Harding scored a career-high 28 points and Bales chipped in with 18 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Devils walloped the Terps 81-62.

“I thought [in] this game we were outworked, outhustled, outplayed, outcoached, you name it,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought Duke was obviously the dominant team.”

From Maryland’s perspective, Duke’s dominance could be traced to a couple of key factors.

Shooting guard Shay Doron committed two fouls in the first six-plus minutes of the game and had to sit for most of the first half.

Without their top perimeter scorer, the Terps (18-1, 2-1) struggled mightily from outside, making only two of their 15 3-point attempts in the first half. Maryland also missed 14 of its last 15 shots before the break as the Blue Devils (18-0, 4-0) finished the half on a 22-10 run to build a 41-30 lead. The Terps shot just 37.8 percent from the field for the game.

Considering Maryland entered yesterday’s contest as the nation’s top shooting team — 53.8 percent on the season — it was a surprising performance.

“I’m pleased with our defensive effort in particular,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said.

Most of Maryland’s outside shots came at the expense of center Crystal Langhorne, who actually had a strong night, going 7-for-9 from the field for 14 points to lead the Terps.

“We talked a lot about that — every timeout — that we were pulling the trigger too quickly from the perimeter and taking shots that were pretty uncharacteristic of our guard play in terms of firing up shots,” Frese said. “But that’s a credit to Duke’s defense — they were heating up and really got into our heads early in terms of their defensive intensity. That’s what makes you rush on the offensive end.”

Frese was most disappointed that her players didn’t return the defensive favor; Harding met little resistance en route to her 28 points, routinely penetrating for layups and good looks as the Terps struggled with help-side defense.

“The fact that we knew that Duke’s defensive pressure was tremendous and the fact that in the first half when we weren’t hitting shots that we didn’t find other areas within the game to be able to have an impact on — in terms of rebounding, trusting our team defense,” Frese said.

Added Doron, “We just have to learn to relax on our defense more. That’s the thing I was most disappointed in tonight was our defense, not our shooting, not anything else.”

The closest Maryland came in the second half was seven points — 54-47 — after a Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood layup with 11:50 left. Duke responded with a 10-0 run that put the game away.

Toliver left the game with 5:34 left after slipping on a wet spot and hurting her ankle, but she said after the game that’ll she’ll be fine.

Frese hopes the game won’t be a complete disaster.

Duke beat Maryland by 18 points in College Park last January, but the Terps used that defeat — as well as a second regular season loss to the Blue Devils the following month — as catalysts in beating their conference rivals in an ACC tournament semifinal and eventually, the national championship.

“It’s a game that will motivate us to improve to get better,” Frese said. “That’s what I’m excited about — to be able to come away with this game and find a lot of areas where we can improve the next time we get back for practice.”

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