Terps vs. Virginia: a hit series

January 18, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

As miniseries go, the last three years of the Maryland-Virginia women's basketball matchup hardly has been as popular as say, "Roots" or "Rich Man, Poor Man."

That's not to say that the battles between the Terps and Cavaliers haven't had enough excitement to cover a few miniseries.

The two teams, which meet tonight at University Hall in Charlottesville, have saved their best for each other and more than 35,000 spectators in the past three years.

"I really don't know what it is that makes these games so close," said Maryland forward Bonnie Rimkus. "It's always been like this between Maryland and Virginia."

Four of the past five games between the teams have been decided by a total of 10 points, and all have come with a significant amount of pressure attached.

In January 1992, the Terps, then ranked third, wrested the No. 1 ranking away from the Cavaliers with a 67-65 win in Charlottesville. One month later, before 14,500, the largest crowd to see a women's Atlantic Coast Conference game, No. 2 Virginia took back the No. 1 ranking, beating Maryland, 75-74, at College Park.

Last year, the Terps beat Virginia, 70-66, in College Park in their first meeting, but dropped a 87-73 decision to the Cavaliers in Charlottesville to give Virginia its third straight regular-season league title.

None of the previous games, however, could match the drama of the ACC tournament championship game, won by Virginia, 106-103, in a record three overtimes.

The contest, filled with miracle three-pointers, deliberately missed free throws, 22 ties, 21 lead changes and no lead of more than five points, was a remarkable showcase of the best the sport could offer.

"That will probably go down as the greatest game in the ACC, if not the nation," said Rimkus, who fouled out late in the game. "It just kept going back and forth. We'd score, and then they'd score. We'd go ahead, and then they'd go ahead. It really was a shame that anybody had to lose, least of all us."

Neither team has shown that kind of brilliance this season, though Virginia seems closer to that level than Maryland.

The 12th-ranked Cavaliers, who lost 6-foot-5 identical twins Heather and Heidi Burge and point guard Dena Evans, veterans of three Final Fours, looked erratic around Christmas, when they were beaten by unheralded St. Joseph's in a holiday tournament.

However, they've stormed back to form in the past 10 days, beating two ranked teams, Ohio State and preseason ACC favorite North Carolina, but without a senior among their regulars, there are still doubts about how good the Cavaliers really are.

"Nobody respects us up there [in the rankings]," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. "We've got a lot to prove. The question is: Can we be consistent?"

Maryland coach Chris Weller no doubt would like an answer to that question as well. Her team has won four of its past seven, but dropped two of its past three to fall out of the Associated Press rankings for the first time in two years.

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