Foes last night, otherwise good friends

Ncaa Women's Final


BOSTON -- Forwards Marissa Coleman of Maryland and Abby Waner of Duke, two of the nation's most highly recruited women's players last year, forged a fast friendship when they played together in a tournament in Puerto Rico.

Shortly after Duke beat LSU in the national semifinal Sunday to join Maryland in last night's national championship game, Cole man heard from her good buddy in a 21st Century fashion.

"Abby Waner is one of my really good friends. We got really close a couple of years ago when we were in Puerto Rico for the USA team. I talked to Abby [Sunday] night." Coleman said. "She sent me a text message saying, "See you Tuesday."

"We're really good friends. I'm really excited to play against her in the championship game. We were talking [Sunday night]. How crazy is our freshman year that we're playing in the national championship game against each other and how excited we are about it."

That friendship didn't stop Waner from picking Coleman clean for a steal late in the first half after the Maryland freshman, the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, had pulled down a rebound. Waner missed the shot, and afterward, Coleman shot Waner a glance as they were heading back up the floor.

Television calling

Maryland's re-emergence at the top of the national women's scene may pay off next season in additional nationally televised regular-season appearances.

Carol Stiff, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, said the Terps should be in line to be a part of the "Big Monday' package of games that airs on ESPN2 from January to March.

"They have a lot of people coming back." Stiff of the Terps. 'You've got to look at the depth chart. Maryland's young."

Stiff said ESPN is attempting to get North Carolina, which Maryland beat twice this season, including in Sunday's national semifinal, to join Duke in next season's State Farm Tip-Off Clas sic in Oklahoma. If the Tar Heels decline, Maryland could be a re placement.

The Maryland-North Carolina semifinal game drew a 2.0 rating for ESPN Sunday, off 10 percent from the 2.2 rating the LSU-Bay lor semifinal drew in 2005 in the same time slot. Meanwhile, the Duke-LSU semifinal got a 2.1 rating, off 23 percent from the 2.7 rating for the Michigan State-Tennessee semifinal in the same time slot last year.

The two-game average for the semifinals was a 2.1 rating, down 16 percent from the 2.4 for last year's semifinals. Overall, ESPN reported, the tournament average rating of 1.3 is up 10 percent from last year's tournament.

Ms. Popularity

Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver has been getting accolades for her steady play and lack of nerves. Now she has a marriage proposal.

Tim Fincham, a sophomore from Gambrills who plays the tuba for the school's pep band, held up a homemade sign with the question, "Kristi, will you marry me??"

Fincham, who created the sign before the band traveled to Boston, admitted that the sign was more of a joke and said his girl friend had not seen it.

"I don't think she knows, but she probably will after watching this game on TV tonight." he said. "She shouldn't be too upset, though."

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