COLLEGE PARK -- If growth is measured by how you respond to adversity, then the Maryland women's basketball team grew substantially last night.
Adversity and an early ticket home from the NCAA tournament were staring the Terps in the face against a slower and probably less talented Toledo Rockets team, as Maryland, the second seed in the Mideast Region, trailed by eight with 17:40 left.
But the eighth-ranked Terps drew from a reserve not seen in the previous six weeks, and came back to notch a 73-60 victory and earn a berth in Thursday's regional semifinals in West Lafayette, Ind., against the winner of today's Purdue-Northern Illinois game.
Afterward, Maryland coach Chris Weller spoke of her team's refusal to panic, after it had given back a 13-point lead early in the first half, before 3,467, the third-largest crowd in Maryland women's history.
"Rather than panic and start to doubt ourselves, we said let's not panic. Let's try this," said Weller.
And so they did, led in large part by junior guard Malissa Boles, who had a game- and career-high 23 points and eight rebounds to keep her team alive.
"I wanted to make it to the Sweet 16," said Boles. "It's like a domino effect. If you start hitting, other people will start hitting, too. You just have to tell yourselves, 'I refuse to lose.' "
Boles did refuse to let her team drop out of the season, just four weeks after they had occupied the top spot in the national polls.
Time and again, she hit tough shots with a defender in her face, made key steals, and even blocked three-point attempts on the perimeter, limiting the Rockets to a 5-for-21 performance from three-point range in the second half.
"You could see the emotion out there. It just felt good," said Boles.
And for the first time in more than a month, point guard Limor Mizrachi began to connect from the perimeter.
After going scoreless in the first half, Mizrachi, who had taken just two shots in her previous two games, had 11 points in the second half, including two three-pointers.
"I don't think I felt pressure," said Mizrachi. "When I feel that my shots are working, I try to play another side of the game. Malissa today was a great shooter."
Weller said, "I still have confidence in her [Limor's] shooting. If she doubts her shots, then that's her problem."
Maryland's problem through most of the game was Toledo's insistence on playing a tight zone defense that so clogged the Terps' inside game that Weller was forced to bench All-ACC center Jessie Hicks and forward Dafne Lee for all but 1:30 of the second half to go to a quicker, more perimeter-oriented offense.
"It was obvious that their game plan was to in no way allow Jessie to score," said Weller. "The strength of our team is that we can take different approaches to the game."
That approach was to go to Boles, Mizrachi and reserve guard Estelle Christy, who had 14 points.
"Last year, we got knocked out of the second round by a Final Four team -- Connecticut," said Toledo coach Bill Fennelly. "I wouldn't be surprised if Toledo got knocked out by a Final Four team again. They're really tough."
The first half started inauspiciously enough for the Terps, who used their superior defensive quickness to choke off the Toledo offense.
Maryland kept the Rockets scoreless from the field for their first nine possessions, limiting them to just one free throw in the first five minutes.
Not until senior guard Dana Drew scored on a drive with 14:15 left in the half did Toledo muster a field goal.
On offense, the Terps looked tight, but were able to turn their quickness into free throw opportunities, building an early 10-3 lead.
The Terps continued to build their lead as forward Michele Andrew and Christy each connected on medium-range jumpers and foul shots to give Maryland an 18-5 lead with 11:19 left in the half.
From there, the Rockets, who looked overwhelmed early, began to gain a measure of composure and fought their way back.
Toledo, following the now-accepted procedure against Maryland -- specifically pack the defense inside the foul lane and dare the guards to hit outside jumpers -- saw that strategy pay off, as Hicks, who had four points in the first five minutes, scored just three the rest of the half.
Mizrachi, who has slumped for most of the past six weeks, missed all five of her shots, including all three three-point attempts.
Only Boles, who hit tough jumpers from both wings for 10 first-half points, kept Maryland from collapsing.
Still, the Rockets had found their range, led by guard Drew, who had nine in the first half, and Jane Roman, who connected for eight points, including a jumper with one second left in the half to give Toledo a 30-29 lead at halftime.