- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

With conference play beginning next week, Brenda Frese wanted a test for her 14th-ranked Terrapins to prepare them for the rough-and-tumble ACC.

Undefeated entering Tuesday’s game, Mississippi State provided such a challenge. And much to Frese’s delight, Maryland held up, beating the Bulldogs 80-73 in the final game of the Terrapin Classic at Comcast Center.

“I thought it was a great win against a very talented SEC team,” Frese said. “I love the way we’re playing - with unselfishness against a very athletic team, the kind of team that we’re going to see in the ACC.”

Point guard Kristi Toliver had a team-high 24 points and eight assists after being suspended for Monday’s game against UNC Asheville because of a violation of team rules. The senior played all 40 minutes and effectively handled multiple types of pressure from the Bulldogs (11-1), including a fullcourt press in the first half and halfcourt trap in the second. She committed only one turnover.

“From not playing [Monday], I definitely had a sense of urgency from the beginning,” she said. “I knew that Mississippi State was a really good team from a really good conference, so we just wanted to come out and play the best we could.”

The Terps (11-2) didn’t enjoy the fundamental advantages of size and strength that they did in Monday’s blowout of UNC Asheville. Still, they appeared to be in control of the game after jumping out to a double-digit lead early and holding a 15-point advantage at halftime. But behind guard Alexis Rack (27 points), the Bulldogs pulled to within eight with 16 minutes left and didn’t relent the rest of the way.

Maryland was able to hold off Mississippi State by constantly attacking the rim and taking advantage of its 3-point opportunities (8-for-16). The Terps made more free throws (16) than Mississippi State attempted (10) and shot 53.8 percent from the field.

“That’s how we are going to be able to punish teams, when we have that kind of attack mentality,” Frese said. “I thought overall the freedom that we’re playing with and the confidence [has shown] we’re unstoppable when we play unselfishly like … we have the past two games.”

Forward Demauria Liles earned tournament MVP honors by posting her second consecutive strong performance. The junior-college transfer totaled 26 points and 16 rebounds in the two games.

“To have someone who has that much athleticism, it’s a lot of fun [to play with Liles],” Toliver said. “We have so many lob plays for her in our offense and our out-of-bounds plays. It’s just easy assists for me.”

Guard Marah Strickland followed up Monday’s career-high 21 points with 16 against Mississippi State. The sophomore usually starts but put together her best outings of the season by coming off the bench the past two games to also earn all-tournament honors.

“My team brings so much intensity and just being able to watch them running up and down the court and playing hard, it just makes me hungry to get out there and be a part of that,” she said. “It’s been fun the past two games coming off the bench.”

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