- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

After a two-week layoff since winning the ACC tournament, Maryland point guard Kristi Toliver made sure the Terrapins had no trouble in their first-round NCAA tournament game.

The senior point guard scored a game-high 27 points to lead top-seeded Maryland past 16th-seeded Dartmouth 82-53 on Sunday at Comcast Center. The Terrapins next face No. 9 seed Utah, which beat eighth-seeded Villanova 60-30 in the day’s first game.

“It was great to be able to finally get started and play,” coach Brenda Frese said. “We did a tremendous job, starting with the leadership of our seniors. That’s what we’re going to have to have each and every game.”

As was the case last year against Coppin State, the Terps were somewhat sluggish in the game’s first 10 minutes. But thanks to Toliver, who had as many points (23) as Dartmouth at halftime, they were never seriously challenged.

“We knew it was coming, and we had a definitive way of trying to stop [Toliver],” Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said. “Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn’t. She’s the type of player that she probably has to stop herself before anyone else in the nation is going to stop her.”

Dartmouth struggled to get any uncontested looks, particularly Ivy League player of the year Brittney Smith, who was 4-for-19 from the field. The Big Green shot just 27.4 percent, a combination of cold shooting and Maryland’s size and speed advantages. Pushing the tempo at every opportunity, the Terps cashed in on Dartmouth’s inaccuracy with 20 fast-break points.

That’s exactly the type of result the high-octane Terps were looking for after making defense their main focus in practice last week.

“Coming into the tournament, we wanted to prove that, when we put our minds to it, we can play defense,” said senior Marissa Coleman, who grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. “That’s one of the things that people are doubting about us, so we made a conscious effort tonight to go out and stop their best player.”

The Big Green didn’t have the same success with Toliver, who had no trouble dissecting their 2-3 zone. After she knocked down a pair of early 3-pointers, Dartmouth had to extend its zone to challenge Toliver’s range. She subsequently got to the rim seemingly at will and found plenty of soft spots in the defense as she put together an efficient 11-for-14 shooting performance.

“I love seeing when Kristi is in that kind of attack mode, and I think it really helps our team to be aggressive,” Frese said. “They had to find a way to be able to stop her. Every game we’re going to face different matchups, and she is able to exploit them.”

Any thought of an upset was quickly squelched. Dartmouth missed its first nine shots while the Terps jumped out to an 8-0 lead. From there, the slow-paced Big Green struggled to keep up.

A 3-pointer from Toliver gave the Terps an 18-7 lead with 12:55 remaining in the first half, and they never relinquished a double-digit advantage.

No. 9 Utah 60, No. 8 Villanova 30: In the first game at Comcast Center, the Utes held the Wildcats to 19 percent shooting en route to the second round and a matchup against the Terps.

Villanova settled for jump shots against stifling Utah and managed just 11 field goals. The Wildcats were just 4-for-29 from beyond the arc, and their 30-point output was the third lowest in NCAA tournament history.

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