COLLEGE PARK -- For the record, Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller believes her team is not unduly pressured by its first No. 1 ranking.
"We've played three of the top teams in our conference in six days," said Weller. "We could have been No. 2 and it wouldn't have mattered."
Perhaps, but the Terps, in their first defense of their top ranking, looked more than a little tense as they held off upset-minded 15th-ranked Clemson, 63-59, before 1,389 at Cole Field House last night.
Maryland (15-1, 5-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) got the good news yesterday that it had received the school's first top ranking in the history of either basketball program, then nearly surrendered it within 24 hours behind the charge of a hungry Clemson team.
Maryland got a clutch performance from sophomore guard Limor Mizrachi, who scored 12 of her 14 points in the last 7 minutes, 40 seconds to bring the Terps back from a nine-point second-half deficit.
Mizrachi, 21, a native of Givataim, Israel, was a member of the Israeli national team and, at this time last year, was a fitness instructor at a military gym for the Israeli army. Her unflappable demeanor was appreciated by the Terps, who played their third consecutive nail-biter.
"I told our players that she was dodging Scud missiles this time last year," said Clemson coach Jim Davis, who tried to recruit the 5-foot-7 guard. "There ain't no double-teams or presses in the ACC that's going to faze her."
Mizrachi hit a three-pointer, three foul shots and two baseline drives, including the game-winner from 8 feet with 15 seconds left that gave Maryland its hard-fought win.
"In the second half, she was the stabilizing influence," Weller said. "I don't think anything should ever rattle her."
The Terps were playing before their third straight home crowd of 1,000 or more -- a program record.
"I love it when students come out because they're so noisy," Weller said. "The students are great people to have in the stands because they're so obnoxious. That's a compliment."
The Tigers (10-5, 2-4) came out miffed from their flat performance Saturday night against Virginia. Last week, the Terps beat the Cavaliers on the court and then took their No. 1 spot in this week's rankings.
Davis had his team practice in College Park for three hours on Sunday, and it paid off in an inspired effort.
"When we walked off the floor Sunday, the girls were high-fiving each other. I knew we were ready," said Davis. "It took a lot of spunk and guts on the part of our team to stand in there and trade punches like they did."
Clemson allowed Maryland center Jessie Hicks to get three early inside baskets, then choked off the middle in a tight zone, daring the Terps to shoot from outside.
Instead, Maryland elected to continue to try to punch it in, and got rebuffed by committing 11 first-half turnovers.
On offense, the Tigers were hot from the outside, as freshman guard Tara Saunooke scored 18 in the first half and her senior backcourt mate, Cheron Wells, had 10 to give Clemson a 40-34 halftime lead.
In the second half, Hicks, who had a team-high 18 points, scored 10 of Maryland's first 12 in the first 10 minutes, then tired.
By that point, though, Mizrachi was ready to take over, and she scored all but two of Maryland's last 14 points.
Defensively, the Terps turned up the heat in the second half, holding the Tigers to just 19 points. Clemson could only shoot 33 percent in the half, and Saunooke and Wells had just two and five points, respectively.