Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller knew exactly what to expect from Butler in last night's Dial Soap Classic championship game at Cole Field House.
After all, Butler coach June Olkowski had been Weller's assistant for three years in the early 1980s, and the teacher knew her
student would get the Bulldogs fired up.
Butler extended the Terps virtually to the limit, erasing an 11-point deficit in the second half before falling, 68-64.
"I knew they were going to be well-coached, pumped up and hard-nosed, much like their coach," Weller said. "Her team is a reflection of her, a very classy group."
The Bulldogs (7-2), who earlier this season upset Georgia Tech on the road, nearly claimed their second ACC victim in Maryland (7-3), tying the score with 1:51 to play.
From there, Maryland's backcourt of sophomore Kwana Williams and Karon Ferguson took over.
Williams, the tournament's most valuable player, broke a 64-64 tie with a baseline runner with 57.4 seconds left for two of her game-high 22 points.
"She responded. She didn't play her age," said Olkowski. "She's a scorer, not just a shooter. She does a nice job of dribble penetration."
Then, after Butler's Melanie Ross missed a 15-footer that could have tied the game with 30 seconds left, Ferguson collected the loose ball and dribbled off 25 seconds before she was fouled.
Ferguson, one of only two seniors on the Maryland roster, calmly made two free throws to clinch the hard-fought win.
The Terps' offense, hampered by foul trouble and indecision, stalled for long stretches. It only came to life when Williams, who has emerged as the team's go-to player, was on the court.
Williams got things going early, with 10 points in the first eight minutes to stake the Terps to a 22-10 lead.
Maryland led by as many as 14 with five minutes left in the half, but when Williams picked up her second foul with 4:16 remaining, the Terps' offense went stale, with three straight possessions going to the shot-clock buzzer.
Meanwhile, Butler began to assert itself, particularly inside, where its starting front line of Sarah Armington, Pat Jackson and Liesl Schultz found success along the perimeter.
The trio combined for 19 first-half points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs on a 12-4 run to cut their halftime deficit to 38-32.
In the consolation game, junior guard Keri Chaconas scored 32 points to go along with seven assists to lead George Mason to an 83-71 win over Colonial Athletic Association rival William and Mary.