Virginia-Maryland women's friendly rivalry pits 1, 3

January 15, 1992|By Milton Kent

According to the coaches, tonight's Maryland-Virginia women's basketball game in Charlottesville is just another game between two old friendly rivals.

"It's an important game, but any time you play a game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the games are important," said Maryland coach Chris Weller.

"We haven't stressed any points about the regular season or any of that," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan.

The players are playing down tonight's meeting between the top-ranked Cavaliers and No. 3 Maryland.

"We had games like this in Israel with the top teams all the time, so the game with Virginia shouldn't be any different," said Maryland guard Limor Mizrachi, who played for eight years on the Israeli national team.

There will be a rematch in College Park Feb. 11 and a probable third meeting in the ACC tournament, but this is the biggest game to date this season in women's basketball.

A sellout crowd of more than 8,800 is expected at University Hall for the game, which has drawn about 40 credentials requests from local and national media.

Virginia (13-0, 3-0), which lost to Tennessee in overtime for the national championship last season, started the season ranked second and moved to the top after the Volunteers were beaten by Stanford.

The Cavaliers have been seriously challenged in only two games, a 77-70 win at Auburn, the only team to defeat Maryland (12-1, 2-0) this season, and a 67-60 win at Florida State. They have beaten their opponents by an average of 28 points.

The Cavaliers, who have all but one regular remaining from last season, have shifted their offensive focus from the perimeter to the inside, as Ryan has emphasized the half-court game more.

As a result, Dawn Staley, a 5-foot-5 senior guard from Philadelphia and last season's consensus national Player of the Year, has sacrificed a lot of the scoring load and is only the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 15.5 points.

Ryan has moved the Burges, who at 6-5 are the world's tallest identical twin sisters, into the starting lineup as a Twin Towers unit.

Heather Burge is Virginia's leading scorer (16.8) and rebounder (8.8). Heidi is the fourth-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder.

They will present the toughest interior challenge to date for Maryland's front line of 6-4 junior center Jessie Hicks, the conference's Player of the Week last week, and 6-foot sophomore forward Michele Andrew, though 6-3 sophomore Bonnie Rimkus, the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, is likely to play a lot.

The Terps have been beating their opponents by an average of 29 points.

"Maryland is extremely balanced, and they have much better defensive players, especially on the perimeter," said Ryan.

Mizrachi and Malissa Boles, a junior transfer from Milwaukee, will need to hit consistently from the outside and keep turnovers to a minimum. In drubbing Maryland twice last season -- including 111-74 at College Park, the worst loss in the 17-year history of the program -- the Cavaliers forced 73 turnovers.

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