Terps women still thinking NCAA

February 23, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland women's basketball team has taken a long, strange trip in the past month.

First, there was the three-game slide that started with a 68-56 loss at Virginia Jan. 18. Then, there were the two weeks when the Terps played their best ball of the season, leading to a five-game winning streak.

And just when it seemed Maryland was poised to make a late run for second or third in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Terps turned in perhaps their two most disappointing performances of the season in losses last weekend to Duke and North Carolina.

The circle becomes complete tonight, when the Terps (13-10, 7-6) play host to ninth-ranked Virginia (21-3, 13-1) at Cole Field House with a chance to regain some lost momentum.

"It's not our whole season if we lose, but a win might make our whole season," said Maryland coach Chris Weller.

Ten days ago, the Terps looked poised to cement an NCAA tournament bid. They had a head of steam, a 13-8 overall mark and five chances to get the one ACC win that would ensure a .500 league record, a huge stepping stone to postseason play.

Maryland has played more Top 25 opponents (six) than any other ACC team, but its record against that opposition is 1-5.

Even with a loss tonight, the Terps should be favored to beat Wake Forest, tied for last in the ACC, at College Park Saturday night. That would clinch a .500 record with a makeup game remaining Tuesday against Clemson at Cole Field House.

However, the Terps have made their trek to the postseason perilous.

Maryland was overmatched in Sunday's 106-76 drubbing by the fifth-ranked Tar Heels, the preseason league favorites.

But the Terps were upset by how they lost to Duke two nights before, after beating them by 17 Feb. 5 in College Park.

In Durham, Maryland led by as many as 16 points in the second half. But the Blue Devils climbed back to win, 62-60, on a last-second jumper.

"It was traumatic to have a 16-point lead and lose that way," said senior center Monica Adams.

Said senior forward Bonnie Rimkus: "That Duke loss hurt and hurt bad, especially after having a big lead like that. A lot of us couldn't sleep after that."

Virginia can clinch its fifth straight regular-season title with a win tonight.

The Cavaliers effectively neutralized Rimkus, Maryland's top offensive threat, last month by collapsing on her and double-teaming her, holding the 6-foot-4 senior to 15 points.

As they did in their 106-103 triple-overtime win over Maryland in ,, last year's ACC tournament final, Virginia feasted at the foul line, shooting 21 more free throws than the Terps and making 17 more.

And as she did last March, Virginia reserve center Jeffra &L Gausepohl hurt Maryland, scoring 29 points and making 13 of 16 free throws.

"We're going to have to concentrate on rebounding and Jeffra Gausepohl," said Rimkus. "She had a field day on us last time and hopefully, she won't do as well [tonight]."

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