COLLEGE PARK -- The physical setting for last night's Maryland-Georgia Tech women's basketball game was Cole Field House, but it could just as well have been a gym in the Association of Independent Schools, where Kisha Ford and Sonia Chase had done battle.
The two Baltimore products tangled in the second half, and Chase's defense of Ford helped the Terps stave off the Yellow Jackets, 73-68, to take a major step toward their first NCAA tournament bid in four years.
Ford (Bryn Mawr), who hit six of her first seven shots in the first half for 18 points before intermission, was guarded in the second half by Chase (McDonogh), who held her to just four points after the break for a total of 22.
Meanwhile, Chase had only six points, but a game-high nine rebounds in a brilliant defensive effort.
"I don't look forward to guarding her [Ford]," said Chase. "It's challenging to guard her. She's a good player, so I have to be smart defensively."
Said Maryland coach Chris Weller: "Sonia has guarded her in the past. We wanted to try to mix it up a bit, and Sonia has been struggling a bit offensively, so I didn't want her to take on the biggest offensive assignment, but she did a nice job in the second half."
The Terps (17-8, 8-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) brushed off an eight-point halftime deficit with perhaps their best all-around half of the season, hitting a blistering 65 percent from the field.
Freshman guard Tiffany Brown had a career-high 24 points off the bench, including a school-record-tying six three-pointers -- four in the second half.
Brown hit two three-pointers in the final minute of the first half to get the Terps within double digits, then sank two more treys in the first four minutes of the second half to pull Maryland ahead by one. Her final three with 2: 22 remaining, combined with two free throws with 22.2 seconds to go put the game out of reach.
"I had a lot of open shots. I had open looks and luckily they went in. I was kind of feeling it," said Brown.
The Yellow Jackets (15-10, 7-8) opened play by hitting 52 percent of their shots from the field in the first half. Ford and freshman reserve Danielle Donehew accounted for all but six of Georgia Tech's first-half total.
Donehew hit five three-pointers in the first half, and had 17 points at the break. But, save for a late flurry in the second half, she was kept in check by a scrappy Maryland defense, which forced the Jackets to shoot only 38 percent after the break.
"There are going to be shots that you miss. Unfortunately, Tiffany Brown didn't miss any shots and we did," said Georgia Tech coach Agnus Berenato.
Last night's win assures the Terps of at least a .500 ACC record, which might be enough to get them into the 64-team NCAA draw, but Weller said they'll need at least one more win.
"The ACC has not commanded the respect I think it deserves," said Weller. "I believe our conference should get at least six teams in. There's a big group of teams who are right there together and it's good to be at the top of that group."
GEORGIA TECH -- Ford 10-20 0-0 22, Williams 3-4 0-0 6, Dortch 2-4 0-0 4, Martin 1-7 0-0 2, Munnion 2-7 2-2 2, Smith 1-3 0-0 3, Donehew 9-17 0-0 24, Matlock 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 2-2 68.
MARYLAND -- Cross 7-12 3-5 18, Chase 3-7 0-1 6, Ohman 0-0 0-0 0, Bretz 3-4 2-2 9, Purvis 1-2 0-0 2, Brown 7-11 4-4 24, Davis 7-9 0-0 14. Totals 28-45 9-12 73.
Halftime -- Georgia Tech 41-33. Rebounds -- Georgia Tech 24 (Ford 6); Maryland 29 (Chase 9). Assists-- Georgia Tech 16 (Martin 11); Maryland 19 (Bretz 5). A -- 1,840.
Pub Date: 2/20/97