It is starting to become somewhat like a broken record, to report on the fantastic senior leadership displayed by the women’s Maryland Terrapins basketball team.
The Lady Terrapins (20-4, 8-2 ACC) put together their grittiest performance of the season, outlasting the No. 17-ranked Virginia Cavaliers for a well-deserved 94-78 win, before an announced crowd of 7,053 fans at Comcast Center.
Senior Marissa Coleman’s skinned knees and cramping legs told the story of what kind of night it really was for both eager squads.
Maryland’s coach Brenda Frese was visibly worn out, and she was in a safe zone on the sidelines.
“That game actually felt like a heavyweight match, versus a basketball game,” Frese said. “I just loved the toughness that we showed.”
Coleman and fellow senior Kristi Toliver have been the catalysts that the other Maryland players feed off, and last night was no exception.
Coleman scored a season-high 28 points, had seven rebounds, six assists, four steals, and two blocked shots.
With this stellar performance, she went into the Maryland history books.
She surpassed Vicky Bullet (1,928 points) for second-place on the career scoring list.
The only player that has more points than Coleman is recent grad Crystal Langhorne. (2,247 points)
Virginia coach Debbie Ryan summed up the scenario for her team rather bluntly.
“Toliver and Coleman had outstanding games,” Ryan said. “We didn’t do much to defend them.”
Virginia (19-6, 5-4 ACC) dropped into a fifth-place tie with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (18-6, 5-4 ACC) and the Boston College Eagles (17-7, 5-4 ACC) with a valiant, but ultimately futile effort.
After having a month chock full of conference games, Maryland gets to enjoy a non-conference tango with the Rutgers women’s basketball team (14-9) on Sunday.
The Lady Terrapins have one more loss than the ACC conference-leading Florida State Seminoles (20-5, 8-1), but they have asserted themselves as a top contender for the conference title.
Memo to turtle fans: the conference tournament begins March 5 in Greensboro, N.C.
Maryland knew this game was going to be a dogfight.
In the team’s first meeting in Charlottesville, Maryland could not keep Virginia star guard Monica Wright from making a mockery of their front court defense.
Wright (28 points) forward Lyndra Littles and center Aisha Mohammed, combined to score 77 points out of the team’s total score of 89 points.
This outstanding surge of aggressive offensive energy erased Maryland’s largest lead of 13 points, as Virginia stung the Terps for an 89-81 defeat.
Any momentum from this past performance for the Cavaliers, quickly was dispatched by Marissa Coleman and her “superwoman” display.
“We let that one slip away [in Charlottesville.] We had that game,” Coleman said. “Like Coach B says sometimes we just go scatterbrained and go crazy. That’s exactly what happened at U-VA. We talked about it.
"There was no way we were going to lose this game tonight. We were going to hustle after loose balls, we were going to do all the little things that lost us that game in Charlottesville.”
Coleman answered any spectator’s doubts about which team would stay hungry like the wolf, by twice flying into the courtside seats while chasing the ball down.
A couple of plays later, sophomore Marah Strickland (nine points) followed Marissa’s lead, and went to the floor to grab the bouncing ball from the grizzled paws of Lyndra Littles.
Starting forward Dee Liles courageously battled through flu-like symptoms.
She finished the game with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocked shots.
That is the heart of this Maryland starting five.
They play to win.
Coach Frese kept mixing up the defensive sets, which worked to perfection.
Virginia struggled offensively, making 38.7 percent of their field goal attempts.
Monica Wright was held to 14 points on just 5-of-18 shooting.
Virginia had a chance to take charge of the game when they led 51-50 with 14:19 left to play.
However, Maryland nixed that game plan by going on a game-winning 21-7 run.
It was in these final minutes, Marissa Coleman's knees became bloodied, battered, and bruised.
Skill and versatility are deadly attributes to have at this late stage in the college basketball playoff hunt.
Expect more bold battles for these fearless five in the coming games ahead.