COLLEGE PARK -- Fourteen months ago, the Maryland women's basketball team stood at the summit of their sport -- No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Last night, any thought they had of leaving a mark on the rich history of their program ended with a crashing thud, and they were beaten by Southwest Missouri State, 86-82, before 3,007 at Cole Field House in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
When the final horn sounded, the season and a two-year span concluded with no Atlantic Coast Conference championships, no regional championships and precious little to show for their efforts, except painful memories.
"If you look at past teams here, we haven't been the greatest and when the buzzer went off, it just said that our season was over and our career at Maryland was over," said senior center Jessie Hicks, who fouled out with 1:18 left.
The second-seeded Terps shot a sizzling 68 percent from the floor, out-rebounded the Bears, 29-14, hit 15 of 16 free throws -- in other words, did everything necessary to advance to the Midwest Regional semifinal next Thursday.
But Maryland, which lost its first home NCAA Tournament game in eight contests, committed a whopping 28 turnovers, most of them at the most inopportune times.
Southwest Missouri State coach Cheryl Burnett said: "I can imagine how Maryland feels after I look at the stats. But we always want our defense to be a factor and when you look at the turnovers and theirs vs. ours, you can see the difference."
Maryland coach Chris Weller said: "We wanted to do a better job of controlling the direction of the ball."
The Bears (23-8), who upset Iowa last season in the second round of the tournament, advance to meet Louisiana Tech, an 82-78 winner over Texas yesterday, in a Midwest Regional semifinal.
The Terps (22-8), who dropped a triple-overtime game to Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final, made up deficits of 11 and six points late in the second half, but eventually could not overcome Southwest Missouri State's torrid shooting, especially from three-point range, where the Bears hit eight of 12.
Guards Melody Howard and Tina Robbins combined for 50 points, and their outside shooting disrupted Maryland's defensive efforts.
"They did an excellent job attacking us in their offense, both penetrating and hitting the three-pointers," said Weller.
Trailing 68-59 with 7:45 left, the Terps went on a 14-3 run to tie the score with 3:26 left on a layup by Hicks.
The run was powered by guards Malissa Boles and Katrina Colleton, playing in their final game as Terps.
Colleton had 18 points, but missed a three-pointer that would have given Maryland the lead with 11 seconds left.
Boles, who had a career-high 27 points, suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the last minute, but played with grit.
"She [Boles] has been a big part of the last two years. When everything is down and out, Malissa's going to be going at it heart and soul," said Weller.
The Bears emerged from a timeout with a quick run on free throws from Robbins and forward Tonya Baucom and a drive and three free throws from Howard.
But Maryland, trailing 79-71 responded, as Boles hit a driving layup and then one of two free throws. That was followed by a three-pointer from Monica Bennett to cut the Bears' lead to 80-77.
After Boles connected on another drive, then Bennett hit a second three-pointer to tie the score at 82 with 55 seconds left.
But the Bears, with more than 500 of their fans making the trip, fended off one last Maryland push, as Baucom scored on a
put-back and Howard hit two free throws to seal the win.