COLLEGE PARK -- For the last three years, the Maryland women's basketball team has been pushed around a landscape upon which it once was dominant.
Last night's 72-53 win over No. 20 Clemson was perhaps a sign the Terps are ready to do some pushing back, as they stomped the defending Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion Tigers, who just 10 days before beat then-No. 2 Georgia.
Except for a three-minute span in the first half, Maryland (5-1, 1-0 ACC), played as dominating a game as it has since the 1991-92 season, when it was ranked No. 1 for four weeks.
These Terps aren't on that level yet, but last night's performance served notice that they belong among the nation's best. Indeed, discounting a two-point, season-opening loss on the road at Penn State, where they had led by 13 in the second half, Maryland might now be ranked in the Top 25.
"We've given up trying to figure it out," said coach Chris Weller. "We're not worried about what other people are saying. We've listened too long. You can rank us or not, and you probably won't. But the game is 40 minutes long, and we'll be there for 40 minutes."
In the most significant eight minutes last night -- the opening portion of the second half -- the Terps were splendid, building a one-point halftime lead into a 19-point advantage by holding Clemson (3-1, 0-1) without a basket for that period.
"That was embarrassing. That is a basketball team that's going to have to be reckoned with in the ACC, and I knew that coming in," said Clemson coach Jim Davis.
The Terps combined the inside power of junior forward Kalisa Davis, who had a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds, with exceptional perimeter play from junior Sonia Chase (McDonogh) and freshman Tiffany Brown.
Chase had 12 points and six assists. Brown, who came off the bench for injured starter Kim Bretz, who sprained her ankle late in the first half, had two big three-pointers and three assists.
"At halftime, Coach Weller told me, 'This is the ACC,' and I had to pick it up and push it down their throats like they were pushing it down mine. I think everything worked pretty well," said Brown.
Inside, Davis and junior Stephanie Cross, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, consistently used quickness to maneuver around Clemson's senior frontcourt of Laura Cottrell and Jaci Stimson, who were held to a combined 15 points and seven rebounds.
"They were invisible, weren't they? Two, big old invisible young ladies. I wish I could figure it out," said Davis.
It appears that Maryland now is one of those teams that people will have to figure out, and that suits Weller.
"We feel like we're a good team," she said. "We don't think it should be a surprise that we are a good team."
Pub Date: 12/08/96