STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- With the game on the line, Maryland coach Brenda Frese decided to get the ball inside to star post player Crystal Langhorne. She came through in the clutch.
Langhorne capped a 30-point effort with two late inside baskets and St. John's went cold from the field as the second-seeded Terps held off No. 7 seed St. John's 81-74 on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"My teammates were getting me the ball in the right places and our coaches just trusted me to get the ball inside because of we had size advantage," Langhorne said.
Langhorne, who also had nine rebounds, helped the Terps (30-4) advance to a matchup with defending champion Baylor in the Albuquerque Regional semifinals after losing in the second round the previous two seasons.
However, the win didn't come easy.
Dominated in the post, St. John's (22-8) stayed step-for-step with Maryland behind quick guard Kia Wright's great play and outside shooting by Tara Walker and Greeba Barlow. Maryland outrebounded St. John's 46-31.
"I felt we gave all that we had," said Wright, a 5-foot-8 guard who finished with 23 points and nine assists. "They're big, they're strong, but that doesn't speak for what we can do against them."
St. John's also took advantage of sloppy play by the Terps, scoring 24 points off 20 turnovers.
This exchange was typical: Up 65-64 with 6:52 left, Maryland's Marissa Coleman threw away a pass in the paint intended for Langhorne. Wright came down and connected with Tiina Sten for a turnaround jumper to put St. John's ahead.
Wright finished with 23 points and nine assists, while Walker had 17 and Barlow 16.
The teams then traded leads or stayed within a point or two of each other. Kristi Toliver, who struggled from outside for most the game, hit a 16-footer, before Walker followed with a 3-pointer over a defender to give the Red Storm back the lead.
Ashleigh Newman then hit a 3, and Barlow responded by sinking a free throw to tie the score at 72 with just over three minutes left.
Maryland took over from there. Toliver connected with Langhorne for a layup inside. Langhorne then converted an offensive rebound to give the Terps a 76-72 lead, and Shay Doron hit two free throws.
St. John's couldn't hit another field goal, getting their final points on two foul shots by Wright, and Maryland put the game away with three more free throws over the last eight seconds.
"We just found a way to win. We continued to rebound with them and stayed together as a team," a relieved Maryland coach Brenda Frese said after the game.
Laura Harper finished with 15 points while Coleman had 11 for the Terps.
Maryland used its size advantage throughout the game with 6-foot-4 Laura Harper and Langhorne connecting on easy baskets inside to give the Terps and early 13-6 lead. St. John's tallest starters were 6-1 Angela Clark and 6-foot Danielle Chambers, and they were often overwhelmed under the basket.
But the Terps were error-prone in the first half, when they had 14 of their turnovers. The team looked disjointed at times with teammates exchanging looks of frustration after failing to connect on plays.
Down 35-34 at halftime, St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico tried to maintain her team's confidence.
"I told them to just keep doing what you're doing," she said. "We weren't playing perfect, but were still in the game at that point."
Despite the loss, it's been a great year at resurgent St. John's, which was 3-24 three seasons ago. The Red Storm have improved steadily since then, and their first-round win on Sunday over California was the school's first NCAA victory since 1988.
"We had it in our mind that we could come out here and play with them, no matter who their tallest player is or how quick their quickest guard is," Wright said.
The Terps have had just as a dramatic improvement under Frese, who was 10-18 in her first season as coach in 2002-03. Now the Terps have surpassed their best win total since 1988-89, when they went to the Final Four.