- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2012

There will be no tearful ceremony at midcourt for this one. No new slot in the record book. No round number to highlight in the media guide.

But for Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese, her 301st win was far sweeter than the 300th that earned her such accolades.

“That would be a no-brainer. This one by far [feels better],” Frese said. “There’s nothing better than beating Duke.”

Tianna Hawkins hit two clutch layups in the last minute to help eighth-ranked Maryland hand Duke a 63-61 loss, the Blue Devils’ first ACC defeat of the season.

The 15,150 fans at Comcast Center dressed for the “Red Out” was the eighth-largest crowd in Maryland women’s basketball history.

Down the stretch, the game felt eerily similar to the last-minute Miami loss seven days earlier, but with a few minor differences (the crowd was wearing red instead of pink and the ACC opponent was No. 5 Duke instead of No. 6 Miami) and one huge difference: Maryland hit the key shots to put away an ACC rival.

“The Miami game last week, we were right there, and they made plays over us,” Frese said. “When you can follow that up a week later and finish it, you gain confidence. You gain momentum with what you’re doing. And that’s where we want to be down the stretch. “

Maryland (23-4, 10-4 ACC) trailed Duke (22-4, 13-1 ACC) by one with less than a minute remaining when Hawkins collected an offensive rebound and put it back for the basket and the foul.

Her free throw made it a two-point game, but with 21 seconds left, Chelsea Gray beat Kim Rodgers for a layup on an isolation play to tie it.

Conventional basketball wisdom says the Terps should have held for the last shot. Not these Terps.

Sophomore forward Alyssa Thomas dribbled the length of the court, but missed her left-handed layup. Hawkins, the ACC player of the week, was there for the rebound and deciding basket.

“That would be Alyssa Thomas,” Frese laughed when asked why the Terps didn’t hold.

“We wanted to hold for the last shot, but when you get Alyssa in terms of her aggressiveness to the rim and you get someone to the side of you defensively, and you’re at home, you’ve got to go make a play.”

Thomas, who leads the ACC in scoring, missed all but two of her field goals and a couple foul shots to finish with just eight points. However, she led the team in rebounding (12) and came up with a critical block on Duke’s last-second 3-pointer that would have given the Blue Devils the game.

“Phenomenal job sticking with it and using her length for a late game block,” Frese said. “It was special.”

Hawkins (19 points), sophomore guard Laurin Mincy (17), and senior center Lynetta Kizer (12) picked up the slack during Thomas’ cold stretch to help the Terps overcome a lackluster opening half in which they committed 14 turnovers and Thomas was held to one point.

Over the first 10 minutes of the game, Maryland had nearly twice as many turnovers (nine) as points (five) and was shooting less than 17 percent from the field.

“I told the team in the locker room, this one was special for a lot of different reasons,” Frese said. “To have a game of this magnitude and the adversity that we faced obviously in the first half, just to be able to see the heart and the character that we played with throughout a very difficult game.”

Frese challenged Hawkins in the locker room to start rebounding. The junior forward responded by grabbing all nine of her boards in the second half, including two crucial rebounds in the final minute that led to baskets.

As a team, Maryland out rebounded Duke 45 to 36, including 23-16 offensively.

“[Rebounding was] absolutely the difference in the game. No question,” Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. “Not only the rebounding differential, but also offensive rebounding. No excuse for that.”

Maryland closes its regular season schedule against North Carolina on Friday and NC State on Sunday.

“We were 12 strong. This team is getting better,” Frese said. “We’re excited about the momentum that we’re gaining. We just want to stay humble and stay hungry and finish this thing strong with the two games that we have remaining.”

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