- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another ACC tournament was about to end in disappointingly early fashion for Kristi Toliver. Then the Maryland star did what she does best: Hit big shots when the Terrapins needed them most.

Toliver scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half, and No. 4 Maryland rallied from 12 points down to beat Wake Forest 72-70 on Friday in the ACC quarterfinals.

League rookie of the year Lynetta Kizer had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the top-seeded Terps (26-4), the regular-season co-champs who took a successful first step toward claiming the conference title that has eluded Toliver and Marissa Coleman during their first three seasons.

“The one thing we haven’t accomplished since we’ve been here - we’ve got the national championship and just recently got the regular season” title, Coleman said. “So this is the last thing on the agenda.”

Maryland held the Demon Deacons without a field goal for nine minutes during a 19-2 run late in the game, won its 10th straight and advanced to the semifinals against No. 11 North Carolina, the fourth seed.

Alex Tchangoue and Corinne Groves each scored 16 points for Wake Forest (19-11), which appeared headed for the biggest victory in school history midway through the second half before going cold.

“We stopped scoring. Bottom line,” coach Mike Petersen said. “They’re a great team, and you’re not going to hold them without scoring forever.”

Yet the Demon Deacons had one last chance in the final minute. Groves hit a jumper with 47.3 seconds left to pull within 70-67 and they forced a stop at about the 30-second mark before Brooke Thomas’ drive to the basket bounced off the rim with about eight seconds left.

Toliver made it a five-point game by hitting two free throws with 4.8 seconds left before Tchangoue added a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Coleman had 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting and Demauria Liles added 11 for the Terps, who took the first step toward their first ACC tournament title since 1989 while winning for the 13th time in 14 games.

And they have Toliver to thank for it.

The league’s newly named player of the year and the star of Maryland’s 2006 national title run missed eight of her first nine shots and finished 4-for-14 from the field. But seemingly each of those baskets came in timely fashion for the Terps.

“We covered her really good. But when the game got close, you knew she was going to try to take over,” Petersen said. “You know that she’s a phenomenal offensive player that’s made clutch shots her whole career, and today was no different.”

Maryland trailed 63-51 with about 10 minutes left when Toliver knocked down a 3-pointer to start the decisive run. She connected again five minutes later from long range to pull the Terps within one point, and Coleman’s fast-break layup with four minutes left made it 66-65 - their first lead since late in the first half.

“We didn’t look back from there,” Toliver said of her second 3.

Thomas finished with 15 points for the Demon Deacons, who were denied their first win over a ranked team since 2007 and their first victory in the series since 2002. They’ve never beaten a team ranked higher than seventh, and that upset came against Maryland in 1993.

They’ll have to wait until March 16 to learn whether they’ll get another chance - in either the NCAA tournament or the WNIT - to secure the program’s first 20-win season since they were 23-8 in 1986-87.

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