RICHMOND, Va. -- For most of the first half last night, the 24th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team, which trailed by many as 23 points, looked like pretenders to the national spotlight, stripped of their pride by Southern California.
But the Terps regained a lot of their self-respect with a stirring second-half comeback that frightened the 13th-ranked Women of Troy, who held on to defeat Maryland, 92-85.
USC freshman center Michelle Campbell and senior guard Nicole McCrimmon made 3 of 4 free throws in the last 21.6 seconds to put the game away and win the championship of the Central Fidelity Classic.
"I was real pleased with the character we showed in the second half," Weller said. "We stayed as poised as we can expect to be at this point.
Nothing surprised us other than the actual performance. We anticipated the power. We didn't deal with it."
"They [the Terps] did a good job of making adjustments," USC coach Cheryl Miller said. "We weren't quite prepared for their comeback. Once we got our gloves back on and started swinging, we did OK."
Meanwhile, Maryland's Bonnie Rimkus, in a bravura performance, scored a career-high 36 points, including five in the final two minutes to put the Terps in a position to win.
"I was just kind of lucky," Rimkus said. "I felt my shot was on. I think I was playing a little bit out of my mind. I don't know where some of that came from."
Trailing 88-85 with 21.6 seconds left, Maryland had a chance to tie after Campbell missed the second of two free throws. Maryland's Michele Andrew got the rebound, but traveled, giving the ball to USC (3-0), which closed the game with free throws.
Trailing by 13 at halftime, the Terps held their own through most of the second half, but could not shrink the lead much beyond that for most of the half.
But with 1:52 left, Rimkus banked a shot off the glass with USC center Lisa Leslie, the tournament MVP, on her hip. Leslie fouled out, and Rimkus, who also had 15 rebounds, made the free throw to pull Maryland to 83-82.
Rimkus, a 6-foot-4 senior forward who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year three years ago, propelled herself into national prominence with the highest individual single-game Maryland scoring total since Dafne Lee (Walbrook) had 39 points against Wake Forest in February, 1990.
"She has a nose for the basket and a great sense for where the ball will come off," said USC's Miller, herself a four-time All-American.
Leslie said: "She's a very good player, and she showed us some things that we didn't see her do against Texas. I didn't think she could do half the stuff she did. I was really surprised."
Leslie's performance, however, surprised no one. She bewildered the Terps the entire game from inside and outside with 22 points and nine rebounds in just 25 minutes.
"As a leader, my job is to attack the defense and hope my teammates will follow," said Leslie, a 6-5 senior.