- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

CORAL GABLES, Fla. | For the first time in 20 years, Maryland is the ACC champion.

Marissa Coleman had 17 points and 16 rebounds, Marah Strickland also scored 17 and the fifth-ranked Terrapins enhanced their chances of claiming a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by beating Miami 89-64 on Sunday to clinch a share of their first ACC crown since 1989.

The Terrapins won the national title in 2006 - and their seniors who were on that team soon will have ACC rings for their jewelry boxes.

“Obviously, just a special win for us,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “So proud of this team with this win, being ACC champions and, like I told them, the chance and the opportunity to leave their legacy and their mark and win the first ACC title in 20 years. We did it together each and every game.”

Kristi Toliver scored 11, while Lynetta Kizer and Anjale Barrett each added 10 for Maryland (25-4, 12-2), which took command with a 16-3 run over a 4:49 stretch of the first half and closed the regular season on a nine-game winning streak.

Riquna Williams scored 17 points and Lamese James added 16 in her final home game for Miami (13-16, 2-12). Epiphany Woodson scored 10 for the Hurricanes, who were outrebounded 52-35 by the bigger Terps.

“They’re an awesome team,” Miami coach Katie Meier said.

Maryland finished knotted atop the ACC with Florida State, which also finished 12-2 in the league by beating Wake Forest later Sunday. But Maryland held the tiebreaker edge over the Seminoles, thanks to a 72-71 win in Tallahassee on Feb. 2 when Toliver drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Terps haven’t lost since and probably didn’t think at the time that Toliver’s game-winner ultimately would bring the No. 1 ACC seed.

No such drama was needed Sunday.

Maryland never trailed and seized control with one big spurt. Dee Liles’ three-point play with 9:11 left in the half pushed Maryland’s lead, which had been 14-11 only five minutes earlier, to 30-14.

Miami was never within fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.

“They’re such a good team,” James said. “You can’t give them any daylight.”

The Hurricanes, who are now 1-8 all-time against Maryland, got as close as 14 on three occasions in the second half before the Terps found another gear.

“We cut it to 14,” Meier said, “and by the time I finished clapping it was 20.”

A 13-2 run over 2:43 of the second half sealed Miami’s fate, with Strickland capping the burst by hitting a 3-pointer with 11:36 left to give Maryland what was then its biggest lead at 68-43.

“At the beginning of the year, the coaches told us more so than anything that’s probably one of the biggest things you can accomplish,” Coleman said. “That shows a team has brought it for the whole conference season. That’s what we did.”

Miami will play a first-round ACC tournament game Thursday against Boston College. Maryland, which also hasn’t won the ACC tournament since 1989 and has made it to the conference final only twice in that span, has a bye into Friday’s quarterfinal round and will meet either Wake Forest or N.C. State.

And here’s a good omen for the Terps in their quest to sweep the ACC crowns: The No. 1 seeded team in the conference tournament has won the title seven times in the past eight years.

“We’ll get regrouped, get rested and get ready,” Frese said.

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