Effects of virus linger for Terps

Noirez, Coleman still sick

Harper collapses

Final four notebook

women's College Basketball

April 02, 2006|By MILTON KENT AND EDWARD LEE | MILTON KENT AND EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTERS

BOSTON -- Often, coaches who reach the pinnacle of their sport are in big demand to write fluffy, "how we won the big one" books, with behind-the-scenes details on how their team won it all.

After last weekend's bout with a virus that ran rampant through the players and coaching staff at the Albuquerque Regional, Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese figures she is qualified to write her own tome about her team's experiences.

"I am getting ready after the Final Four to write my book, `The Albuquerque Diet,' " Frese said at a news conference yesterday. "I think it will be a bestseller ... [a] great way to trim up before you get out on the Final Four stage."

Frese said all but two of her players, guard Shay Doron and forward Crystal Langhorne, were felled by a virus that spread like wildfire through the Maryland ranks, even taking a turn on the coach.

Though Frese and the players appear to have survived the worst, junior reserve center Aurelie Noirez caught the bug last week and could not fly with the team to Boston on Thursday, remaining in College Park until Friday, when she came north with the band and cheerleaders.

Freshman forward Marissa Coleman, who was struck by the virus before Monday's 75-65 overtime win over Utah in the regional final, apparently had a relapse and didn't practice Friday. She did take part in the open practice here at TD Banknorth Garden yesterday as well as a subsequent practice.

Junior forward Laura Harper briefly collapsed during yesterday's open practice and was helped to the bench after two minutes, missing the last half. However, Natalia Ciccone, a team spokeswoman, characterized Harper's illness as light-headedness, saying Harper practiced later in the day and is expected to play tonight.

Ciccone said Harper's illness had nothing to do with the virus, but was attributed to her failure to eat anything yesterday morning.

Top honors

Louisiana State senior forward Seimone Augustus received two major Player of the Year awards yesterday, from the Associated Press and Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

Augustus, who led the nation in scoring with 23 points a game, won a close vote for AP Player of the Year, over North Carolina's Ivory Latta. In capturing the Wade Trophy, the women's basketball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, Augustus became only the second player to win the award twice. Old Dominion's Nancy Lieberman won the Wade Trophy in 1979 and 1980.

Augustus also headed the list of players named to the 10-player Kodak All-America team, which, like the Wade Trophy, is voted on by a panel of coaches.

Back for more

Though they're just freshmen, Maryland's Kristi Toliver and Coleman have been to the Final Four before. Both were in Indianapolis last year and watched the semifinal games together from the stands.

Toliver and Coleman were in town competing in the WBCA All-Star Game. The atmosphere and energy in the RCA Dome struck them both.

"We kept saying, `Boston in '06! Boston in '06,' " Toliver said. "Now we're here. Our dreams became a reality.'

Sneak preview

When the Terps played Boston College in January, Frese made sure the team's bus made an impromptu stop at TD Banknorth Garden as a possible preview of where they might be headed.

Only Coleman initially grasped the significance of the trip.

"It's the genius that I am. I figured it out. Yes, it's just genius knowledge," said Coleman, laughing. "Sitting in the arena and listening to Coach B talk to us about how this could be us in a few months and this team could get there. I think that gave a lot of people goose bumps, just sitting in the arena looking at the court and realizing that this team could be playing here in a couple of months."

Friendly rivalry

Jade Perry admits that her 6-foot-1 height listed in the media guide is slightly exaggerated. Yet, the sophomore forward could loom large tonight for Maryland.

Perry, who has been part of a rotation that includes sophomores Harper and Langhorne, has enjoyed some success in guarding Tar Heels sophomore center Erlana Larkins.

In the first meeting between the Terps and North Carolina last year, Larkins was limited to 13 points and five rebounds. In February, Larkins had to work to register 17 points and nine rebounds in the Tar Heels' 98-95 overtime loss to Maryland, and she missed the entire overtime session with leg cramps.

Larkins called Perry one of the toughest post players she has clashed with this season.

"Jade is very strong, and she doesn't let me float down to the block and let me do what I want to do," said Larkins, who leads the team in rebounding (7.1) and is second in scoring (13.4). "She tries to take me out of rhythm and a pattern. It's going to be tough."

Perry returned the favor, pointing out that Larkins' quickness in the post is difficult to counter. Perry said her goal is to use her girth to push Larkins out of her comfort zone.

"I would say that I've been more physical with her because I know she doesn't like a lot of contact," Perry said. "I believe I'm a stronger post player than her, so I just have to use my strength to my advantage as best as I can."

Et cetera

Maryland is seeking to become the third straight No. 2 seed to win a national title, following Baylor in 2005 and Connecticut in 2004. ... Though the College Park campus is the closest in proximity to Boston, the Terps had the longest distance traveled to get here among the Final Four teams, with 4,645 miles, including trips home between games. LSU traveled 3,699 miles, North Carolina 2,834 and Duke 2,178.

milton.kent@baltsun.com edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Rick Maese contributed to this article.

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