UM's Toliver gets her shot at fame

Her game-tying 3-pointer last week helped secure an NCAA title. Now, the guard revels in the limelight.


COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK-- --To those who say that a life can change in a minute, Kristi Toliver is proof that it doesn't have to take that long.

Toliver, a freshman point guard on the NCAA champion Maryland women's basketball team, has seen her life turn upside down off one last-gasp, game-tying three-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in the April 4 title game.

Suddenly, people who wouldn't have recognized her from any other college co-ed are calling her a hero. President Bush told her, "Nice shot," when she and her Terps teammates went to the White House on Thursday, and she signed more than a few autographs Friday at Camden Yards at the Orioles-Boston Red Sox game.

It's all heady stuff, but nothing that Toliver would ever run from.

"Just being back on campus, it's almost overwhelming with how many people are knowing you and recognizing you, just for making a shot," Toliver said with a laugh. "But it's been great, you know? It's been a great experience, and I'm just enjoying every moment of it, for sure."

Toliver's enjoyment of all the moments since she hit what might forever be known in Maryland basketball lore as "The Shot" - a desperation three-pointer from the right wing with 6.1 seconds to go in regulation over the outstretched arms of Duke center Alison Bales - is magnified by the fact that, in her mind, she was only doing what the situation called for.

"That's what you play for, to make history," Toliver said. "I think this shot will be remembered like Charlotte Smith's for [North] Carolina, when they won it at the buzzer [in the 1994 title game]. It's just unbelievable what happened. I can't really believe it. I just approached it as stepping up and making a shot, but when you think about what that shot means to the women's college game and to this program, especially, it's unbelievable and overwhelming, really."

Toliver's father, George, a former NBA referee, said his normally implacable daughter wasn't fazed by the moment.

"A part of her development and training was to understand where you are and trust your ability and your instincts and don't be rattled by external things," said George Toliver, the supervisor of officials for the NBA Development League. "Don't have a fear of failure and don't be concerned about what other people think. Just know your game where you are and be confident in that. And that's how she really plays."

The Terps, who trailed by as many as 13 points with 14:53 to go in the second half, made a slow but inexorable march back, briefly leading for about 20 seconds near the five-minute mark, before Duke came back to lead by four with 2:33 left.

From there, sophomore Ashleigh Newman made one of two free throws with 57 seconds left, then Toliver hit a tough off-balance shot in the lane with 25 seconds to go to trim the lead to one. Duke's Jessica Foley made a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left, setting the scene for Toliver's heroics.

Off a timeout, Maryland assistant coach Jeff Walz drew up the play for Toliver to receive the inbounds pass, give up the ball and come off a screen.

"But in my head, it was almost in one ear and out the other, because I knew I was going to keep the ball, and I knew I was going to shoot it," Toliver said. "One way or the other, I was going to get it off. I kind of went to Plan B as soon as we got out on the floor. I dribbled left and went to my right. I definitely wanted to go to my right because that's my strong hand."

Screens set it up

Toliver received the inbounds pass from Marissa Coleman and dribbled left, then back right toward a double screen set by Coleman, herself a 48 percent three-point shooter, and Crystal Langhorne. Coleman's screen took out Duke point guard Lindsey Harding, and Langhorne rubbed off Foley, who had been guarding Coleman.

That left Toliver in front of the Maryland bench alone with the 6-foot-7 Bales, a foot taller than the Terps' point guard. Toliver stepped back a foot, then launched her shot.

"I really didn't know where to go with it," Toliver said. "I didn't know if I should keep going to the corner to separate from [Bales] or pull up and step back. I knew she was slow, so it was good that I went to her side. But, yeah, she got her hands up there, but it was almost like her hands were like a [goalpost] and I was looking right through it. I just had my eye on the goal the entire time and I didn't really see them."

Said Bales: "That was a huge shot for her. I was the one on her. She was behind the line a good step at least. To win a championship, you have to be able to hit big shots, and Maryland did that."

There were still 6.1 seconds on the clock after the shot swished through. Duke, which had a timeout left, elected to go for the game-winner without using it. Harding took the inbounds pass and dribbled up the right side to the baseline with three defenders - one of them Toliver -converging on her. She flicked a one-hander that rolled off the rim at the horn.

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