9:00 PM ET, March 29, 2008
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Shhhh! Crystal Langhorne would like everyone to ignore Maryland's convincing performance on Saturday night.The Terrapins dominating senior center would prefer to remain the No. 1 seed no one expects to advance, even if Maryland finally looked worthy of its top billing and is one step away from the Final Four."When no one is paying attention to us, that's when we play our best," she said.Langhorne and the Terrapins rebounded from lackluster efforts in the first two rounds, using a swarming defense to overwhelm No. 4-seed Vanderbilt 80-66 in the Spokane Regional semifinals.Langhorne again showed why she was the ACC player of the year, scoring 16 of her 28 points in the first half as Maryland advanced to the regional finals for the sixth time in school history.Two years removed from their national title, the Terrapins are back in the regional finals, and will face Stanford in Monday night's regional final.Maryland was so impressive that Pitt coach Agnus Bernato gave Terrapins coach Brenda Frese a head-shaking "damn," as they passed in the hallway under the arena before the Panthers' game.The Terrapins looked very little like the team who lost in the second-round last year, then sweated through a pair of closer-than-expected games on their home court to reach the regional semis."We just loosened up once we came here. We went into our defensive mode," Laura Harper said. "We've started rolling now. There's no looking back."And it all started at the defensive end for Maryland. While the offense was again a model of efficiency -- shooting 51 percent and getting 14 assists on 29 baskets -- it was a concerted effort at the defensive end that finally made the Terrapins look like championship contenders.They swept the floor diving for loose balls, hopped into passing lanes and generally made it miserable for a young Vanderbilt team that fell behind early and never recovered."It's amazing you can continue to dismiss this team ... and not see the positives of how this team plays," Frese said. "I hope it continues right along the path it's been. We work better that way."After delivering twin boys in February, Frese stomped and yelled at her players, lauding their effort on the defensive end. The Terrapins (33-3) were inspired in the first half, holding Vanderbilt to just 34.5 percent shooting and forcing nine turnovers that Maryland converted into 10 easy points, quickly getting the pace to its liking. Vanderbilt leading scorer Christina Wirth was held scoreless for the first 15 1/2 minutes, and only the aggressive play off the bench of Jessica Mooney kept the Commodores within 15 at halftime.Wirth finished with 13 points and Mooney added 11 for Vandy."We got down against too good of a team to come back against," Vandy coach Melanie Balcomb said.Langhorne was nearly unstoppable in the first half, often getting set up by precision passes from point guard Kristi Toliver, who tempered her own offensive game to be more of a distributor. Toliver said she felt a little like New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, just organizing and distributing, and smiling the entire night.Maryland's 44 first-half points were nearly what Vanderbilt allowed in its first two wins -- 47 points to Montana and 46 to West Virginia."Everybody was just connecting," said Toliver, who scored just eight points -- well below her season average of 16 points -- but had eight assists. "We were just executing and I just had a lot of fun see them succeed."After Vandy pulled within 12 early in the second half, the Terrapins rolled off 18 of the next 26 points, capped by Langhorne's three-point play with 11:34 left. It gave Maryland a 20-point lead and the Terps never looked back.Marissa Coleman added 19 and Marah Strickland had 13 for the Terrapins."We were back to playing nice and loose and having a good time," Langhorne said.Vanderbilt relied on its defense to reach the regional semifinals. Since Jan. 1, no team other than Tennessee -- which Vandy lost to three times -- had scored more than 62 points on the Commodores.But Vanderbilt's players and coaches kept saying Maryland reminded them of Tennessee, and its concerns were justified. The Commodores finished the season (24-9) and have just one senior on their roster."Next year we are not going to be a young team," Wirth said. "We'll remember this feeling and build on it."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||24-62 (.387)||29-57 (.509)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-22 (.227)||4-14 (.286)|
|FT Made-Attempted||13-16 (.813)||18-24 (.750)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|