- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. — Most coaches say they’re not afraid to make changes. Other coaches show they’re not afraid to make changes.

Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese falls in the latter category.

In the Terrapins’ 89-65 first-round NCAA tournament win over Harvard yesterday at Hartford Civic Center, Frese started Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood at point guard ahead of Kristi Toliver, who had started all 32 games this season and 49 consecutive games dating back to last season.

Both players performed well — Wiley-Gatewood had four points and four assists in 19 minutes, and Toliver had 13 points and nine assists in 27 minutes — but the decision was the primary postgame topic, not tomorrow night’s second-round game against Mississippi.

“Especially after evaluating the season and the ACC tournament, we really felt that Kristi was putting way too much pressure on herself,” Frese said. “We wanted to take some pressure off of her. Sa’de gave us a big boost in being vocal, and we need that out of that position. The two of them couldn’t have been better in how they ran the team.”

If Frese thought Toliver was pressing, wouldn’t benching her only increase the self-inflicted pressure?

“It wasn’t about benching her,” Frese said. “It was really about letting her come in off the bench after observing. When she went in, she made some great opposite kick [passes] for some good looks.”

Toliver didn’t buy Frese’s reason for the lineup adjustment.

“As much as that could be her reason, for me, that’s not the reason,” Toliver said. “I would have to disagree with that aspect of it. I’m not really going into a her-opinion-vs.-my-opinion thing.

“I can’t say it’s not important [to start], but I have to look past it and keep playing hard.”

Toliver declined to elaborate on why she disagreed with Frese’s assertion.

Frese had high praise for Toliver’s performance, pointing to her nine assists to only two turnovers.

“To her credit, I thought this was her best all-around floor game that she’s played this season,” Frese said.

Wiley-Gatewood, a transfer from Tennessee, had not started for Maryland since becoming eligible in mid December. Frese informed her of the move a few days after the ACC tournament.

“It was very shocking and surprising,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “I wasn’t expecting it — maybe next year but definitely not this year.”

Said guard Shay Doron: “It was a change up for Kristi, but she did great being that extra spark off the bench. If she’s able to continue doing that, it’s going to be really helpful.”

Frese said Wiley-Gatewood would start tomorrow night against No. 7 seed Mississippi, which defeated No. 10 seed TCU 88-74. Maryland hammered the Rebels 110-79 in November.

Against Harvard (15-13), Maryland took the lead for good at 12-9, and its biggest lead was 26 points.

Overshadowed by the point guard switch was Doron, who scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Playing in her final postseason, Doron broke 20 points for the first time in 25 games. During a 13-0 run early in the second half that swelled Maryland’s lead to 24 points, Doron scored nine straight points.

“I was just feeling it early, and then my teammates continued to find me and give me some great looks,” she said.

Indeed, the Terps (28-5) made the extra pass. The 23 assists on 36 field goals were their most since Jan. 10 at Miami. Six players had at least two assists.

“I loved how we shared the basketball,” Frese said. “We were extremely unselfish, looking for each other and in sync. I love watching our team play when they play like that.”

Another factor in Doron’s outburst was Wiley-Gatewood’s presence. Toliver is regarded as the team’s best outside shooter, and she took 11 shots; Wiley-Gatewood took three shots.

Doron is now only 59 points away from tying Vicky Bullett’s school scoring record of 1,928 points.

“Her sense of urgency is going to be in her play in terms of wanting to get stops and wanting to create opportunities,” Frese said. “She’s not going to force anything. Her game has always been in the flow, and today she was in a great rhythm and never took a bad shot.”

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