Vaunted Maryland women face first real test against Penn State

December 05, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evenin Sun Staff

COLLEGE PARK -- For weeks now, Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller has been telling anyone who would listen that she's got a pretty good team.

And somebody apparently has heard: Witness the Terps' rise up the Associated Press rankings from their position at No. 15 to start the season, to last week's 12th slot to the current post at No. 9, their highest ranking in three years.

But that leap into the Top 10 has come by virtue of some rather gaudy victory margins over less than top shelf opposition.

That all changes tonight when Maryland (4-0) faces its first big challenge of the season, at seventh-ranked Penn State (4-1).

"If we do well, it says a lot for our potential," Weller said. "If we struggle, we know we have a lot to work on."

To date, all the Terps have had to work on is staying awake during blowouts. The closest margin in any of their four games has been an 18-point victory spread over Richmond on the road.

At home, Maryland has been devastating, beating Howard, Towson State and Loyola by an average of 103-49.

On defense, the Terps have forced an average of 31.5 turnovers per game and are allowing their opponents to shoot only 35 percent from the floor.

"Maryland's a very good basketball team," said Loyola coach Frank Szymanski, whose Greyhounds were on the very short end of a 100-53 drubbing Monday night. "They're probably in midseason form already. They don't have a weak position."

Indeed, the first four games have afforded Weller the opportunity clear out her bench and give everyone playing time. As a result, every player is averaging at least 10 minutes per game.

"This is probably our biggest challenge," said Weller. "We are quite deep, but how do we get everybody the opportunity?"

Depth is about the only area in which Weller will give her team an edge over Penn State, which started the season ranked third, but fell to No. 7 after a loss at 11th-ranked Purdue.

The Nittany Lions, who beat Syracuse 98-66 Monday for their 29th consecutive home regular-season win, spent a good part of last season at the very top of the polls, but lost at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament to James Madison, 73-71. They finished 29-2.

Penn State returns four of last season's top five scorers, including 6-foot-1 senior forward Susan Robinson, a national Player of the Year candidate.

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