- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

If the Maryland women’s basketball team becomes complacent during the upcoming offseason, all it has to do is pop in a replay of its 89-78 loss to Mississippi in Tuesday night’s second round of the NCAA tournament.

Even though they won the national championship last year, spent several weeks at No. 1 and won 28 games this year, the Terrapins remain flawed in one key aspect: They commit too many turnovers.

In its upset win, Mississippi turned 29 Maryland turnovers into 42 points. The Rebels’ on-ball defense was relentless and helped produce an early 18-0 run. Every primary Terps ball-handler looked rattled, first forcing passes into traffic and then becoming tentative, which played right into Ole Miss’ swarming philosophy.

“The gift Ole Miss gave us tonight is the sense for us to get back into the weight room and gym to improve our conditioning and ball-handling,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “We learned a tough lesson out of this.”

The Terps entered the NCAA tournament ranked 187th in turnovers a game (18.1). They finished the season with more turnovers (622) than assists (621), a startling statistic considering the team’s ranking and record.

“It looked like there were 12 players out there at some points — they were that quick and athletic,” guard Kristi Toliver said. “We have to work on breaking and attacking the press.”

In their six defeats, the Terps averaged 21.5 turnovers and allowed 23.8 points off turnovers. They had at least 14 turnovers in each loss and at least 21 in four of the defeats.

“The biggest thing you can learn is to get back into the gym and become a better ball-handler,” Frese said. “Players want to accept responsibility and, as a coaching staff, it’s the same thing. We can get better. It’s a great lesson to learn that after winning a championship [in 2006]. You can’t get satisfied. There are always things to improve and get better at.”

And barring an unforeseen transfer, the only defection from the starting lineup is senior Shay Doron. Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper return as forward/centers, Marissa Coleman will be back as one of the ACC’s most versatile players and point guards Toliver and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood could form the starting backcourt.

Coming to Maryland is a five-player class, including four guards: Anjale Barrett, Kathryn Lyons, Kim Rodgers and Marah Strickland. Post player Drey Mingo, who is 6-foot-2, will add depth behind Langhorne and Harper.

If any of the new guards shows an ability to knife through double teams with the dribble or pass over and around pressure defenses, her worth will escalate.

This season Maryland got used to getting the best shot from every opponent. Next season the Terps hope the experiences of being the hunted can be beneficial. Eight of the top nine scorers are expected to return.

“It was a different animal,” Frese said. “The expectations and pressure you place on yourself and the pressure you faced every time your name was mentioned was different. But at the same time, when you’re a winner and a champion, those are the expectations you want when you’re a dominating program.”

Despite a gaudy 28-6 record, the Terps were only 2-4 against ranked teams.

“The only bright side is that it will fuel our fire for next season,” Coleman said. “There is nobody in the locker room that won’t be in the gym working to get better and getting ready to show the nation the Maryland’s women’s basketball that they didn’t see this season.”

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