COLLEGE PARK -- Three weeks ago, the Maryland women's basketball team was struggling.
The Terps hadn't beaten any of their ranked opponents, and they had failed to erase any of their second-half deficits.
But, as their 64-55 victory last night over 17th-ranked Rutgers demonstrated, the Terps appear to be a different team, resilient and full of confidence, with a boost from Bonnie Rimkus.
The 6-foot-4 All-America candidate bounced back from a couple of recent sub-par performances with 20 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.
Rimkus scored 14 in the second half, and 10 in a dramatic 17-4 run that gave Maryland (12-8) a 53-49 lead with 4:45 left.
"I didn't feel like I had to take over," said Rimkus. "I just felt like I had to pick it up a few notches."
In so doing, Rimkus powered Maryland to its fourth straight win and first in six games against a ranked opponent this season.
The Terps also ended a 10-game Rutgers winning streak, doing it in customary fashion: through defense.
Maryland forced 31 turnovers, held Rutgers star Caroline DeRoose to two points on 1-for-12 shooting and limited the Knights (14-4) to 39 percent shooting from the field. The Knights failed to score a basket for nearly the final 10 minutes.
"We were pretty fortunate that we were able to get some pressure on them and get out on their three-point shooters," said Maryland coach Chris Weller.
Weller benched Rimkus, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, to start the second half, and the Terps were fortunate that Rutgers didn't more fully exploit Rimkus' absence at both ends of the floor.
"I don't know what that [Rimkus' benching] was about. I was surprised. She's a fine player," said Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz. "Not to take anything away from Maryland, but this one was winnable."
With Rimkus out, Rutgers sagged off the Maryland guards, daring them to shoot and clogging the middle. Without a proven scorer, the Terps went dry.
Meanwhile, Liz Hanson was connecting from three-point range, hitting three shots in a three-minute span to key a 17-8 run that gave the Knights a 45-36 lead with 13:38 left.
Rimkus returned with 13:58 remaining, and the Terps took off. Rimkus hit three baskets to get Maryland within 45-40.
From there, the Maryland defense took charge, overplaying the passing lanes and keeping the Knights from getting good shots inside or outside.
At the focus of the Maryland defense was center Monica Adams, who had a second straight strong performance with 10 rebounds and five blocks to go with 11 points. Point guard Karon Ferguson scored a career-high 13 points for the Terps.