- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crystal Langhorne has toiled in practice for the last month under a constant reminder of how much she has accomplished in four years at Maryland.

After her final regular-season home game, the school unfurled a banner honoring her No. 1 jersey at Comcast Center, a testament to her program records in points and rebounds and her role in rebuilding the Terrapins into a national contender.

Plenty of people milling about the arena notice the white fabric hanging on the same side of the arena as Maryland’s 2006 national title banner. Not Langhorne.

“I always forget to look. I never look. I never look,” Langhorne said with a laugh. “It’s crazy. I never look at it. I might have looked at it three times since it’s been up. I always forget.”

It was an apropos answer from Langhorne, the efficient post presence who has both won games and deflected praise in ample amounts over the last four years. And tonight, when the top-seeded Terps (31-3) meet eighth-seeded Nebraska (21-11), she will play her final game at Comcast.

Is it a time for reflection? Perhaps for how far Maryland has come since coach Brenda Frese recruited her. There are no individual concerns for Langhorne beyond finding a way to help the Terps make it to Spokane, Wash., for the regionals and keeping alive a dream of a second national title.

And that’s the way it always has been.

“She could have easily went the route ‘I’m a superstar, I can do what I want,’ ” senior guard Ashleigh Newman said. “She never once did that. She looks at herself as equal as everyone else on this team. That’s the most intriguing thing about her. She doesn’t care who gets the glory as long as we’re winning games.”

The victories have come in bunches. Langhorne, a starter from her first game, helped the Terps reach the second round of the NCAA tournament as a freshman before anchoring the national title team a year later.

She has been a part of the only 30-win teams in program history (2006 and 2008) and holds school records in points (2,188), rebounds (1,200) and field goal percentage (.652). Langhorne’s manner is methodical — never erratic, just a good chance at a double-double every time in the floor.

“[What’s most impressive is] her strength and her consistency and how she comes just every single game,” senior forward Laura Harper said. “I just don’t remember a bad game from Lang, and I think that’s just really, really crazy. When she thinks she’s having a bad game, everyone else thinks she’s having a great game. She just has a mentality that keeps her going.”

Not to mention the Terps. As in countless games before, Maryland turned to Langhorne to help them fend off plucky Coppin State in Sunday’s tournament opener. And she plugged away, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds to help the Terps pull away.

It was a next-to-last memory in her home gym, a gleaming place Langhorne found appealing when the charismatic Frese was selling a program far removed from its 1980s glory.

She will leave it with at least one national title to her name, the center of the 2006 Final Four court hanging in the Comcast Center lobby and a grateful coach who has turned the Terps into a fixture in the top 10 thanks to Langhorne.

“Crystal’s commitment to Maryland solidified for everybody else that it was cool to come to Maryland,” Frese said. “To have the No. 1 power forward in the country out of high school really validated and put a stamp on just all the great things we have here.”

But now isn’t the time to look back. The Terps remained in College Park while the rest of the campus escaped for spring break last week. With a win tonight, Maryland will earn its own ticket out of town — and bring the Terps closer to earning the sort of banner that will catch even Langhorne’s eye.

“We need some type of vacation because everybody’s in Miami and we were here,” Langhorne said. “We just really want to get to the next round and get out to Washington.”

[1] Maryland (31-3) vs. [8] Nebraska (21-11)

Approx. 9:30 p.m., Comcast Center, ESPN2

Breaking down Maryland

 The Terrapins’ victory over Coppin State in the first round pretty much covered how they have attacked all season — lean heavily on the four remaining starters who were so vital during the 2006 national title run and get a little bit of help elsewhere as needed. Every time the Terps get 20 and 10 from Crystal Langhorne, a stat-stuffing performance from Marissa Coleman, plenty of assists from Kristi Toliver and an active day inside from Laura Harper, they will have an excellent chance of advancing. The pitfalls Maryland typically faces also resurfaced in the opener — turnovers and shaky defense. Those problems, coupled with depth issues (the Terps didn’t extend their bench past seven players until the final 1:26 against Coppin State), remain the biggest reasons for concern going forward.

Breaking down Nebraska

 The Cornhuskers never trailed in their opener against ninth-seeded Xavier, dominating for much of the day before holding on for a 61-58 victory. Nebraska’s offense is tilted toward the frontcourt; forwards Kelsey Griffin and Danielle Page are the Huskers’ top two scorers, and reserve forward Cory Montgomery averages more points than any of Nebraska’s three starting guards. Griffin and Page are among the three juniors and seniors on the team that started the season 15-4 before losing six of nine at one point. Still, this could be a program-defining night for Nebraska, which never has advanced past the round of 32 in seven previous NCAA tournament appearances.

Matchup to watch

Maryland C Crystal Langhorne vs. Nebraska F Kelsey Griffin:

 Griffin, an All-Big 12 choice, dropped 26 points on Xavier in the first round but could find it more difficult to operate against the efficient Langhorne. The Maryland senior, who will play her final game at Comcast Center, has 58 career double-doubles (14 in 28 games this season), was the ACC’s player of the year and holds school records in points (2,188) and rebounds (1,200).

Prediction: Maryland pushes the tempo to its liking and emerges with an 81-70 victory over the feisty Cornhuskers.

Patrick Stevens

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