3/8 TC WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller believes that at this time of the year, there are no superstitions, no psyche jobs and nothing out of the ordinary that gets you through the postseason.
Rather, it is a "refuse to lose" attitude that advances a team toward the Final Four and the eighth-ranked Terps used quite a )) bit of it to beat Purdue, 64-58, in their Mideast Regional semifinal last night.
"I like what [ESPN analyst] Mimi Griffin said during the Final Four preview," Weller said last night. "The team with the best attitude will win. We've been trying to get that. We've worked real hard."
The Terps (25-5) advanced to tomorrow night's regional final against surprise-entrant Western Kentucky, on the strength of a little attitude and a lot of teamwork.
The bulk of the teamwork was on defensing Purdue guard MaChelle Joseph, the Big Ten's career scoring leader. Joseph was held to nine points, the first time in more than a year that she had been kept from double figures.
The Terps threw an assortment of man-to-man and zone defenses atthe host Boilermakers (23-7), playing before 5,802 fans.
"We wanted to keep the ball out of her hands," said Maryland guard Malissa Boles, who had a game-high 14 points. "She is a great penetrator, a great shooter and a great player. We knew we would have to contain her and we did."
But Boles admitted that she had help. Every time Joseph, who had 23 points and 16 assists in Purdue's second-round victory over Northern Illinois last Sunday, got the ball, a Maryland defender attempted to keep her from driving.
"We wanted to make her work for everything," said Weller. "She does it all and those assists go to somebody. We didn't want her to penetrate."
Joseph placed more of the blame on herself, pointing to a 4-for-16 shooting performance, including 1-for-8 from three-point range.
"I'd like to give Maryland a lot of credit. They played some good defense," said Joseph. "But really, I just had one of those nights. My shots just didn't go. My teammates depended on me and I let them down."
Meanwhile, Maryland, seemingly on a turnaround from its late season swoon, got help from two familiar stalwarts, Boles and center Jessie Hicks.
Though not especially effective from the perimeter, Boles hit clutch layups and assisted on defense, when not hawking Joseph.
"Boles just stepped up and did a great job for them," said Purdue coach Lin Dunn. "She's been doing that all year."
Hicks was a rediscovered revelation to the Maryland offense. Rendered ineffective in Saturday's 73-60 win over Toledo by a sagging zone, the 6-4 junior got free for three big baskets in the last five minutes that gave the Terps some breathing room.
"Down the end, we finally got the ball into Jessie and good things usually happen when we do that," said Weller.
Though Weller downplayed it, the Terps got a huge boost to their Final Four hopes when Tennessee (28-3), the region's top seed and nation's second-ranked team, was knocked off by Western Kentucky (25-7) in the opening semifinal.
The seeds for the Hilltoppers win had been planted a year before when the Volunteers edged Western Kentucky in the Mideast Regional semifinal on their home court.
The Hilltoppers had sworn that they would get revenge and they did.
"We believed since last March we could beat Tennessee. We accepted the challenge and the good Lord was with us," said Western Kentucky coach Paul Sanderford.
Western Kentucky rode the shooting of senior guard Kim Pehlke, who had a game-high 28 points -- 21 in the second half -- to climb out of a 38-30 halftime hole.
The Volunteers, who had won three championships in six years and had not been knocked out of the tournament this early since 1985, were done in by poor shooting and questionable shot selection.
Western Kentucky, bidding for its third trip to the Final Four, was the recipient of extreme good fortune, as Tennessee was unable to take advantage of six missed free throws by Western Kentucky in the last two minutes and failed to convert any shots down the stretch.
With 3.2 seconds left and the Hilltoppers leading by three, Western Kentucky's Paulette Jordan missed the first half of a one-and-one, but got the rebound and made the follow shot to cap the victory. Western graduate Dana Johnson had six points for Tennessee.
Weller watched the end of the game from the end of the ramp to the Mackey court, then went back and told her team.
"The only thing I mentioned to them was that I was impressed with how focused the Western Kentucky players were," said Weller. "I said, 'See how important focus can be at this time of
the year.' "