Kristi Toliver knows how these Senior Nights work, having watched - and shed a few tears - as former teammates Shay Doron, Crystal Langhorne, Laura Harper, Jade Perry and Ashleigh Newman were honored during the past two seasons. So she knows what to expect tonight, when the fifth-ranked Maryland women host Boston College in their regular-season home finale.
Except this time, it will be her turn, along with fellow senior Marissa Coleman. Their jerseys will be raised to the Comcast Center rafters, where they will hang alongside those of Doron (2007 graduate), Langhorne (2008), Harper (2008), Tara Heiss (1978), Jasmina Perazic (1983) and Vicky Bullett (1989).
"I'm not going to try to get too emotional," Toliver said. "I'm definitely going to soak in the environment, soak in the moment, but we also have a basketball game to win. A very important one."
Indeed, it's fitting that on the night that Toliver and Coleman - members of the winningest class in program history (118-18 overall) - are honored, the Terrapins will be playing for something: the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, something they haven't had since 1989.
Thanks to No. 22 Virginia's 68-63 victory over No. 11 Florida State on Tuesday - the Seminoles' senior night, no less - Maryland (23-4, 10-2 ACC) and Florida State (23-6, 11-2) are tied in the loss column atop the league standings. If the Terrapins beat Boston College (18-9, 6-6) tonight and Miami (13-14, 2-10) on Sunday - two teams that Toliver and Coleman have never lost to - then they will earn the No. 1 seed, regardless of the Seminoles' result against Wake Forest, because of Maryland's 72-71 victory in Tallahassee.
"We still have the chance to do something really special here, that none of the other senior classes have done," Coleman said. "That's get a regular-season championship, an ACC title, and win another national championship. I think Kristi and I are starting to click at the right time of the season. I think you see the rest of the team following our lead."
Toliver made a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Seminoles on Feb. 2, the first victory in Maryland's current seven-game winning streak. In that stretch, Toliver is averaging 19.6 points on 50.5 percent shooting, and 4.6 assists; Coleman is averaging 21.3 points on 54.8 percent shooting, seven rebounds and 4.3 assists. The two seniors have scored half the Terrapins' points in those seven games.
In their 94-78 victory over Virginia on Feb. 12, Coleman scored a season-high 28 points and Toliver added 25, the first time both players scored at least 25 points in the same game. In Sunday's 77-59 victory over No. 10 Duke, the two seniors combined to almost outscore the Blue Devils themselves, with 58 points.
"When you see goals that are within your reach, that are tangible, you definitely want to go that extra mile and do that extra thing," said Coleman, who is averaging 16.6 points this season. "Right now, it's all about determination and heart. I think that's what this team has been playing with."
Said coach Brenda Frese: "I think they've realized after the course of 20-plus games that they have to have each other to be successful. It's easy for opponents to tune in on one player and stop one player in a scouting report and in a game plan. But when you have them lined up together, that's a dangerous combination."
BC (18-9, 6-6) @NO. 5
MARYLAND (23-4, 10-2)
TV: Comcast SportsNet-Plus