COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller has called this year's team potentially the best she ever has coached, largely because of her bench.
It's becoming clear that if the eighth-ranked Terps are to advance in the NCAA tournament, Weller's bench will have to step up to warrant its billing.
The bench players more than held their own Saturday night, as Maryland, the Mideast Region's second seed, beat 10th seed Toledo, 73-60, to earn a spot in Thursday's regional semifinals against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.
In particular, junior reserve guards Estelle Christy and Katrina Colleton, both forced to play out of position because of the Rockets' three-point shooting, gave the Terps important minutes.
Christy, a 5-foot-8 guard playing at small forward, scored a season-high-tying 14 points, pulled down five rebounds and handed out five assists in 20 minutes. Colleton, forced to play power forward, had just six points, but provided steady play, particularly on defense.
"Their bench really helped them," said Toledo coach Bill Fennelly. "Christy and Colleton got quality minutes and made the most out of them."
Christy said: "It felt really great being out there. I had to observe on the bench and perform when I was called."
Since Virginia beat them in February, the Terps (24-5) have seen teams try a basic formula to shut down their high-powered offense, specifically to choke off the inside and dare Maryland's guards to beat them from the outside.
The Rockets followed that formula Saturday to such an extent that Weller was forced to bench both center Jessie Hicks, a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, and forward Dafne Lee, the only senior in the rotation, for the last 17 minutes of the game.
"I thought Jessie played hard, but it was obvious that their game plan was to in no way allow us to get the ball inside," said Weller.
The Terps took an 18-5 lead in the first five minutes, keeping Toledo from scoring a field goal on its first nine possessions. But the Rockets righted themselves and steadily came back, mostly on the strength of three-pointers to lead 30-29 at the half, and 37-29 with 17:40 left.
Weller adjusted, substituting the quickness and perimeter shooting of Christy and Colleton for the size of Hicks and Lee, to go along with starters Malissa Boles and Limor Mizrachi.
Boles, a second-team All-ACC choice who has become perhaps the team's best individual player, had scored a career-high 23, with eight rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
"I wanted to make it to the Sweet 16," said Boles. "It's like a domino effect. If you start hitting, other people will start hitting. You just have to tell yourselves, 'I refuse to lose.' "