WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- About a month ago, a betting person wouldn't have gotten very good odds that the Maryland women's basketball team would reach the Final Four.
The Terps still may not, but their chances improved greatly last night. That's based as much on what Western Kentucky did to defending champion Tennessee as it is to what the Terps did to Purdue here at Mackey Arena.
Maryland turned back a spirited effort by the Boilermakers, 64-58, to advance to the Mideast Regional championship against Western Kentucky, a 75-70 upset winner over Tennessee.
Junior guard Malissa Boles led the Terps with 14 points, but it was center Jessie Hicks who broke the game open for the Terps (25-5), hitting three straight inside jumpers within a 1:30 span late in the second half to give Maryland a comfortable margin.
The Boilermakers (23-7) had their chances late, as Donna Gill converted a rebound follow with 27.4 seconds left to pull within 60-58. But Maryland sealed the victory with four free throws from Limor Mizrachi and Katrina Colleton.
In the first half, Maryland took an early 8-2 lead as Michele Andrew connected twice on a rebound follow and from 12 feet to complement two foul shots from Hicks and a drive from Mizrachi.
The Boilermakers got a pair of jumpers from star guard MaChelle Joseph to forge an 8-8 tie.
The Terps then went on a 10-4 run, punctuated by four points from Boles and reserve guard Colleton and led 18-12 with 11:19 left.
Although Purdue slowed Maryland for four minutes, the Boilermakers were unable to take more than a one-point lead, going ahead 21-20 with 6:38 left in the half on a jumper in the lane from Kay Tucker.
The Terps went back on a roll, combining shots from four different players to lead 26-24, with 4:12 left in the half.
Later, Estelle Christy canned a 16-footer from the baseline and VTC Dafne Lee sank two foul shots to offset the second of Sonja Swopes' two three-pointers and give Maryland a 30-29 halftime lead.