- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. — Even when second-seeded Maryland fell behind by 23 points, was on its way to a season high in turnovers and was being overwhelmed by a more athletic team, Shay Doron always figured the Terrapins would snap out of their funk — like they usually do — and advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament.

“I felt like that for every second,” she said. “I don’t know how much they were up by, but I always felt we would come back.”

But …

“We just played so bad,” she added. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Sometimes one word is sufficient, and “bad” accurately describes defending NCAA champion Maryland’s performance in last night’s 89-78 second-round loss to No. 7 seed Mississippi at Hartford Civic Center.

Bad ball security — 29 turnovers.

Bad 3-point shooting — 6-for-26.

Bad perimeter defense — Mississippi’s guard trio of Armintie Price, Ashley Awkward and Alliesha Easley combined for 67 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 steals.

And a bad ending — a third second-round exit in four seasons.

“It was in our hands, and we just gave it to them,” said Doron, the Terps’ only senior starter. “I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m frustrated. It [stinks].”

Ole Miss (23-10) advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1992 and will play No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. The Rebels avenged a 110-79 loss to Maryland in late November.

Maryland had big goals but ends its season 28-6. The Terps won last year’s title by overcoming a 13-point deficit to defeat Duke in overtime. There were no such heroics this time.

Maryland trailed by 23 — its largest deficit of the season — and appeared finished when Ole Miss’ Jada Mincy’s 3-point play made it 73-56 with 6:14 remaining.

But the Terps had a last gasp — a 13-2 run — capped by Kristi Toliver’s jumper with 2:23 remaining. Ole Miss, though, scored the next four points to seal the victory.

In the first half, the Rebels used runs of 18-0 and 7-0 to build a 47-30 lead at halftime. Maryland had 20 first-half turnovers, which Mississippi turned into 32 points.

“They punished us in the first half, and everybody saw it,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “They really fed off things when they got their defense going. We couldn’t get our offense going, and like other times this season, it affected our defense.”

Frese tried a variety of things, including a four-guard lineup. Point guards Toliver and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood had 10 and four turnovers, respectively.

“Our frustration spiraled, and Ole Miss fed off it,” Frese said. “When you see teams start to have a meltdown, that’s when you become hungrier, and we allowed that to happen tonight, which is extremely disappointing given the fact we’ve been able to handle runs like that in the past.”

And as the turnovers piled up — 10 in the first six minutes, 16 in the first 10-plus minutes — the angst grew among the Terps’ ball handlers, who often picked up their dribble when double teamed and made bad passes into traffic or across the court.

“As they caused more turnovers during that run, we became tentative, which is very uncharacteristic for our team,” Frese said.

Rebels coach Carol Ross said the Rebels didn’t devise a special game plan for Maryland’s guards even though the Terps entered the game averaging more than 18 turnovers a game.

“We probably scout less than any team in the country,” she said. “We didn’t treat Maryland’s guards any differently than any of the guards in the SEC. If you’re in front of us, we’re going to get after you. Some teams respond better than others.”

Said Doron: “The difference was us. We had a complete disregard for keeping the ball in our hands and taking shots.”

Toliver led Maryland with 24 points. Marissa Coleman added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

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