CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- For four years now, Dena Evans has stood by quietly and watched Dawn Staley, Tammi Reiss and the Burge twins dominate the Virginia women's basketball spotlight through three straight trips to the Final Four.
But, from her point guard slot, Evans has made the most of her moments, like last night, when she willed the 11th-ranked Cavaliers to an 87-73 victory over No. 12 Maryland and their third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.
Maryland (19-6, 10-5) can clinch the second seed in next weekend's ACC tournament in Rock Hill, S.C., with a win Saturday night over Wake Forest in the Terps' regular-season finale.
Evans had a school-record 14 assists for Virginia (20-5, 12-3), and chipped in 21 points, including a clutch three-pointer early in the second half, when the Terps were threatening to come back from a deep hole.
"I don't feel I did it all by myself," said Evans. "It feels good since it was a total team effort. No one thought we could do it this year. Everybody counted us out except us and that makes it sweeter."
Added Virginia coach Debbie Ryan: "She's been a part of taking us to three Final Fours and right now she's just playing as well as I could have imagined she could."
The Cavaliers, who dropped a 70-66 decision in College Park last month, played a nearly flawless game, shooting 63 percent in the second half and 59 percent for the game.
In addition, Virginia outrebounded Maryland 50-26, as Heather Burge, who had a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds, nearly outrebounded the entire starting Maryland front line, which had 12 boards.
"Virginia played a great game," said Terps coach Chris Weller. "They executed as well as I've ever seen them and they ran thecourt extremely well."
The Terps, who trailed by as much as 13 in the first half, and by four at halftime, came out of the dressing room on a 7-0 run, capped by a three-pointer from Monica Bennett, whose 24 points tied her high.
The two teams traded runs, with the Terps trailing 47-46 with 14:20 left. The Cavaliers went on an 11-0 run, fueled by six points from Heather Burge.
The decisive run was helped by Weller's decision to take Maryland out of a zone that had clogged the middle and switch to man-to-man.
The switch permitted Virginia to pound the ball inside to Burge, who hit nine of her 13 shot attempts.
"I was impressed with their patience in their zone offense. We weren't getting the matches that we needed," said Weller.
"They just have good post players and they were doing all the right things," said Maryland center Jessie Hicks, who had 16 points.
The Cavaliers were brilliant to open the game, working their inside/outside game to perfection.
When Evans wasn't popping three-pointers to loosen the Maryland defense, she was lobbing inside to Burge, who scored 12 first-half points.
Evans' jumper with 12:53 left in the half gave Virginia a 21-8 lead as the Cavaliers threatened to blow the Terps out of University Hall.
However, as has been the recent custom, Bennett checked in with about 12 minutes left and gave Maryland the perimeter spark it needed. The 5-5 senior hit her first two shots, a 14-footer on the left wing, and a jumper just inside the three-point arc, to cut the Virginia lead to 25-17 with 10:03 left.
The Terps then abandoned their man-to-man for a combination of zone defenses that largely worked, making them active both inside and outside and allowing them to cut off the Virginia passing lanes.
On offense, Bennett stayed hot, hitting a pull-up jumper with 3:49 left in the half and a three-pointer in the right corner 31 seconds later to get the Terps to within five at 35-30.