COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- For quite some time, the Maryland women's basketball team has had difficulty matching up with Virginia in the low post, as a series of Cavaliers frontcourt players have torched the Terps inside.
Add Wendy Palmer to that list, as the 6-foot-2 junior forward lit up Maryland for a school-record 39 points to lead the 12th-ranked Cavaliers to a 82-48 drubbing of the Terps at Cole Field House last night.
Palmer scored at will from 15 feet in, hitting 18 of 20 shots in the ninth-highest scoring performance ever by an Atlantic Coast Conference woman player, surpassing former Virginia All-America guard Dawn Staley, who scored 37 in a 1989 game against Wake Forest.
"I feel like I'm about to pass out," said Palmer, who was suffering from a cold. "I just went out and played hard. I just wanted to do whatever the team needed."
The Terps have now lost the last six meetings to Virginia and trail for the first time in the all-time series, 21-20. Virginia's win, coupled with No. 22 Duke's 74-72 upset of third-ranked North Carolina last night, gives the Cavaliers (14-3, 7-0) sole possession of first place.
Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, a Baltimore native, became the 17th coach in women's basketball history to win 400 games, and the eighth to win all of her games at one school.
In a statistical fluke, Maryland coach Chris Weller also entered last night's game with 399 career wins, but she'll have to wait at least until Saturday's home game against North Carolina State to get her 400th win.
"It's a great honor to be singled out like this," said Ryan, 400-138 in 18 years. "But I can't even begin to take credit for all of this, especially with the tremendous athletes who have played here and the tremendous people that have coached with me. They're as much to credit for this."
As they did in Sunday's 21-point loss to North Carolina, the Terps (9-9, 1-6) played well in the opening minutes, keeping the Virginia running game in check to trail 15-13 with 10:43 to go in the half.
From there, Virginia, in general, and Palmer, in particular, got to work. The Cavaliers reeled off a 16-3 run, punctuated by eight from Palmer. She scored seven more of her 22 first-half points in a 17-4 spurt that closed the first half with Virginia leading, 48-22.
"Wendy's capable of this almost any night," said Virginia guard Jenny Boucek. "She could have had this night most any time if the guards are getting her the ball in the right spot."
And while Palmer was erupting, the Maryland offense, outside of freshman Stephanie Cross, shut down. Cross scored the last 11 points of the half for the Terps, as the rest of the team went more than 13 minutes without a point.
The Terps were beaten badly on the boards 38-27, giving the Cavaliers a chance to get out and run the break. That is when Palmer wasn't scoring on the blocks.
"We came in trying to stay even on the boards. The first few minutes we did that," said Maryland assistant coach Boe Pearman, who answered post-game questions while Weller tended to family business. "Then they went up, and I think we lost our concentration on the boards, and they took off."