Terps women stumble to finish line Transition game, turnovers are factors

March 09, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- After breakfast yesterday, Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller called a team meeting and made a pronouncement.

"The sun came up this morning. We're all here. The bottom can fall out of things, and you can still go on," said Weller.

The bottom hasn't exactly fallen out for fourth-ranked Maryland, but there is certainly trouble in paradise.

Saturday's 68-67 upset loss to Georgia Tech, a team that never had won an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game in 13 tries, was the latest sign that things are amiss with the Terps.

Six weeks ago, Maryland stood atop women's basketball, having taken the No. 1 ranking away from Virginia with a 67-65 win in Charlottesville.

Tonight, the Terps, who have lost four of their past seven, are reduced to spectators, forced to watch the Yellow Jackets meet the Cavaliers in the ACC final. Georgia Tech beat Clemson, 74-73, and Virginia stopped North Carolina, 74-55, yesterday in the semifinals.

But Maryland still has the upcoming NCAA tournament, and the Terps almost certainly will receive a high seed, a first-round bye and a home game in the second round.

Still, things are clearly out of kilter, and the reasons for Maryland's slide are both plain and not so obvious. The more noticeable areas are:

* Offense: Early in the season, when the Terps were rolling up victory margins of 58, 56 and 47 points, they were getting no shortage of transition baskets.

However, once they moved into conference play, defenses took away a lot of their running game, forcing them to play more half-court.

Turnovers also have hurt Maryland. In six of their past eight games, the Terps have committed 20 or more turnovers.

"Earlier in the year, when we were committing turnovers, they were mistakes of aggression, and that was OK," said Weller. "Now, they're coming in a quarter-court setting, and that's not good for us."

* Defense: The Terps continue to play good half- and full-court defense. But what Maryland hasn't done with as much frequency is force turnovers that result in easy baskets.

In addition, the Terps have been harmed by spotty low-post play. Virginia's Heather Burge and North Carolina State's Rhonda Mapp, both all-conference performers, had all-world games against Maryland.

* Limor Mizrachi: In the early going, Mizrachi, a 5-foot-7 sophomore from Givataim, Israel, was the spark plug, running an efficient offense from the post, as well as hitting three-pointers to open up the defense. But teams began to key on Mizrachi.

In Maryland's five losses, Mizrachi has shot 10 of 29, 35 percent. In the Terps' past two games, against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, she has shot the ball twice, missing both attempts.

Weller said part of Mizrachi's falloff is that she has had a rash of recent exams, and she must spend more time studying than most students to understand her material.

"She's been looking like maybe she's had too many things in focus," said Weller.

The not-so-apparent reason for the Maryland slide is coping with the pressures that have resulted with its unexpected rise.

"We had a lot of success, perhaps a little too easily, maybe too much too soon," said Weller. "We've been having to deal with the expectations that others set."

Another factor was the sellout crowd that came to Cole Field House Feb. 11 to see Maryland take on Virginia.

The Terps lost that game, 75-74, but also appeared subsequently to lose some of their edge.

"That game and the big crowd took a lot out of them emotionally," Ryan said. "They have to win for the people who are supporting them, so they'll come back. But Chris is a great coach. She'll straighten it out."

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