Maryland women seek ACC tournament reversal COLLEGE BASKETBALL


COLLEGE PARK -- This might be the weekend when the Maryland women's basketball team learns if its postseason future is doomed because of its failure to learn from its past.

The 12th-ranked Terps head to Rock Hill, S.C., and the 16th Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with the second seed in hand, and a 1 p.m. quarterfinal meeting today with seventh seed Florida State.

But Maryland (20-6, 11-5) came to last year's tournament with the second seed, and was bounced in the opening round, 68-67, by Georgia Tech, which capped a 17-point second-half deficit on a last-second put-back by Joyce Pierce.

While no one on the Terps would elaborate on that game, it's clear that even now, the effects of that loss and the downward spiral it represented are still being felt.

"I don't think anything really has to be said about it," said junior forward Bonnie Rimkus. "It's pretty fresh in everybody's mind."

Oddly enough, the same things that plagued Maryland in that loss to Tech -- failure to box out and play consistent defense -- have been apparent in its losses this season.

And Maryland coach Chris Weller has spent a considerable amount of time in this week's practices stressing both. "We've been talking a lot about the details and basics of the game, things like rebounding and good solid defense without fouling and giving good seals," said Weller.

Center Jessie Hicks, who was named to the All-ACC first team this week, said: "It has kind of showed in the last few practices. We're getting focused and doing the little things."

Despite some of their recent problems, including two losses in their last five games, the Terps have a bit of history working for them. Maryland has dominated the ACC tournament, taking the crown eight times in 15 years, and won the last time it was ranked 12th, in 1987-88.

However, the Terps have not won the ACC tournament since the 1988-89 season, and if they don't win it this year, the senior quartet of Hicks and guards Monica Bennett, Katrina Colleton and Malissa Boles will represent the first class to leave Maryland without at least one ACC title.

"This is the ACC tournament and it's not hard to get up for this," said Boles.

Their immediate challenge is the Seminoles (13-13, 6-10), who beat Maryland, 68-61, in Tallahassee in January behind 33 points from forward Danielle Ryan.

The Terps took the rematch two weeks later, 74-61, but since then, Florida State has been hit with injuries and suspensions, leaving the Seminoles with just six scholarship players and no true center.

Florida State coach Marynell Meadors said: "The injuries have really just taken us out of our game plan. My only question about our team is if we can play for 40 minutes. Our only challenge right now is to get through the Maryland game."

The conference itself has a challenge this weekend. Generally acknowledged as the nation's second-best women's basketball conference behind the Southeastern Conference, the ACC has never received more than four bids into the 48-team NCAA tournament.

With six teams making appearances in the Associated Press poll, this seemed to be the year that the ACC would get at least five bids.

However, teams have battled each other so closely that not only will it be difficult to get five teams into the NCAA tournament, but it's also likely that when the field is announced a week from tomorrow, the conference will be without a No. 1 seed for the first time in five years.

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