ATLANTA -- At just the right times last night, Maryland displayed flashes of the team that had climbed to the top of the women's national rankings.
Threatened with their third straight Atlantic Coast Conference loss -- early in the second half the Terrapins trailed Georgia Tech by 10 points -- the Terrapins turned up the defensive pressure and turned away a Yellow Jackets upset bid, 71-63.
A decisive 18-6 run helped fourth-ranked Maryland end a two-game losing streak that cost the Terrapins their No. 1 ranking in the national polls earlier yesterday. After suffering a 72-55 loss at Clemson on Saturday, the Terrapins hit the gym Sunday for what coach Chris Weller described as a "very intense" two-hour practice.
But Georgia Tech, which has upset Clemson and North Carolina State this season, almost got its second home victory in three seasons against Maryland.
"A road win in the ACC is a big win," Weller said. "This is always a rough trip and we seemed to operate on Murphy's Law this entire weekend."
The Terrapins (21-3, 11-2) got the breaks early, storming to 10-2 lead. But the Lady Jackets (13-10, 4-8) stayed close, trailing 38-34 at the half thanks to forward Joyce Pierce's 14 points.
Then Georgia Tech stiffened defensively, holding Maryland scoreless for the first 8:13 of the second half. Pierce's short jumper in the lane gave the Lady Jackets a 50-40 lead with 12:56 to play.
"They were out-hustling us," Maryland guard Malissa Boles said. "We got together and decided that we're not going to lose a game because the other team out-hustled us."
Boles helped launch the rally, scoring six points and causing four turnovers that led to Maryland fast-break opportunities. Dafne Lee tipped in a missed shot by Jessie Hicks with 8:07 remaining to give Maryland a 53-52 lead. The Terrapins took the lead for good at 58-56 after a steal by Limor Mizrachi, who fed Boles from half court for an uncontested layup. Mizrachi led Maryland with 16 points. Joyce Pierce scored 20 for Tech.
"We made three critical turnovers down the stretch," Georgia Tech coach Agnus Berenato said. "That's where good teams come back at you. They're not ranked in the top five in the country for nothing."
Lee said the pressures of being the top-ranked team have not been a factor the past week. "We haven't been playing for No. 1," Lee said. "We're the same team we were last week, no matter who we're playing."