7:00 PM ET, December 20, 2007
HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) -- James Madison players were tired of hearing about Kristi Toliver's homecoming, and they were determined to shut her down. They succeeded.But they had no answer for Laura Harper, who scored 24 points Thursday night to lead Maryland (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) to a hard-fought 71-65 victory before a near-capacity crowd that turned out largely to see Toliver, the Terrapins' point guard and leading scorer who grew up in Harrisonburg.Toliver's pregame introduction was greeted with a loud cheer, which did not go unnoticed by Dukes players."I saw fire in their eyes, because they're very proud kids," said James Madison coach Kenny Brooks, who has known Toliver for most of her life and remains close to her.Toliver said she didn't feel any additional pressure before the home folks, but it wasn't one of her better performances. She sat on the bench most of the first half after picking up two early fouls and finished with eight points -- well below her 17.5 average -- on 3-of-10 shooting."I was just trying to embrace everything and have fun," Toliver said. "I came out with two little fouls, but my team stepped up and played great."She needed all the help she could get from her teammates to withstand a gritty performance by the Dukes, who led by 10 in the second half but faded down the stretch against the physical Terrapins."Our defensive intensity really picked up late in the game," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese.Marissa Coleman finished with 19 points for Maryland (14-1), and Crystal Langhorne added 11.James Madison (6-3) was led by Tamera Young with 28 points. Freshman point guard Dawn Evans added 11, and Jasmin Lawrence 10.The night was supposed to belong to Toliver, but she got off to a slow start, missing her first two shots and going to the bench after picking up her second foul with 17:56 left in the first half. She remained there until less than four minutes remained before the break."The game was being called tight," Frese said. "I told Kristi to just keep her poise and composure. She did a much better job with that in the second half."Toliver finished with seven assists and hit two key free throws with 15 seconds left to help put away the Dukes.James Madison center Jennifer Brown said the Dukes came out determined to slow down Toliver "because there was so much hype about her coming home."Brooks called the experience of competing against Toliver "awkward."How awkward? His daughter spotted Toliver during the pregame shoot-around and asked if she could go say hello."I said, `No. This is a JMU night,' " Brooks said.And it nearly was, but the Terrapins survived with good defense and free-throw shooting down the stretch, snapping the longest home winning streak in Division 1 at 30 games. The same crowd that joyfully cheered Toliver at the start of the game gave the Dukes a standing ovation as they left the court afterward."The people who came out were treated to something special," Brooks said.Maryland bolted to a 6-0 lead, but James Madison went on a 21-6 run over the next 6:45. The Terrapins rallied and regained the lead 29-27 on two Jasmin Coleman free throws with 1:50 left in the half.Maryland's Marah Strickland hit a short jumper off a turnover to tie it at 33 at the break.James Madison scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 40-33 lead, but Maryland battled back to take a 45-44 lead on Jade Perry's follow shot. The Dukes' Evans hit a 3, Young buried three consecutive shot jumpers and Lawrence hit a layup after a steal for a 55-45 James Madison advantage.The Terrapins whittled away, taking the lead for good 64-63 on a layup by Coleman with 3:35 left. Toliver and Crystal Langhorne iced the win with two free throws each in the final 15 seconds.
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