COLLEGE PARK -- For two years, the book on beating the Maryland women's basketball team started with a chapter on making the Terps shoot from the outside.
And because Maryland's ability to hit from long range was suspect at best, the Terps languished through the worst two back-to-back seasons in the program's history.
So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Maryland's return to prominence, which continued in last night's 83-44 drubbing of Radford in the opening game of the Dial Soap Classic, has some root in the Terps' improved ability to shoot from the perimeter.
The primary source of that improvement is point guard Tiffany Brown, who had a game-high 14 points off the bench, including three first-half three-pointers, to blow open what had been a reasonably close game.
"When I'm open, I can take the shot and for most of my shots, I wasn't really guarded," said Brown, a 5-foot-6 freshman from Clinton who leads the team in three-point shooting (14-for-36, 39 percent).
Brown, who has split a starting role with sophomore Kim Bretz, hit two three-pointers in a span of 30 seconds midway through the first half to boost Maryland (8-1) from a seven-point lead to a 13-point advantage, forcing Radford (2-8) out of its zone and enabling the Terps to exploit their physical advantage against the smaller Highlanders.
"When Tiff comes in, her strength is shooting threes and she gives us a lift," said teammate Sonia Chase (McDonogh). "They played a zone and her shooting makes the team have to honor her shooting ability."
It had been only a week since the Terps played Towson State, but their sloppy offensive play implied a longer layoff. They shot only 34 percent from the field for the game, missing a number of layups off steals and committing 19 turnovers.
"We have to do a better job of converting," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "We shouldn't be shooting 29 percent in the first half with the shots that we got. We have to continue to get comfortable and show versatility. We tend not to show as smooth a product as we like."
Where the Terps have been smooth is on defense, where they rank third in the nation in points allowed -- giving up a scant 46.4 points a game while forcing 24 turnovers a contest.
Last night, the Terps drew Radford, the seven-time defending Big South Conference champion, into 30 miscues, while allowing them to hit just 25 percent of their shots from the field.
"They get after the ball and they do a tremendous job, not only of covering their man, but of helping out. I've been voting them in the Top 25 [in the coaches' poll] and they are a Top 25 team," said Radford coach Luby Lichonczak.
NOTE: The Terps will be without freshman swing player Kim McCray, who left the team two weeks ago. McCray, who played in seven games, averaged 2.9 points. Weller said she would remain on scholarship this year. She said McCray hadn't been punished but had left of her own volition. "She's not in love with college basketball," Weller said.
RADFORD -- Schnell 4-12 0-0 9, McNeil 1-3 1-2 3, Cruise 2-8 0-2 4, Hairston 0-9 4-4 4, Tull 1-3 1-5 4, Walton 2-9 0-0 4, Beckett 5-8 3-5 13, Grant 0-4 3-4 3, Hughes 0-1 0-0 0, Frazier 0-1 0-0 0, Hubbard 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-60 12-22 44.
MARYLAND -- Cross 5-11 2-2 12, Davis 3-5 3-3 9, Bretz 1-6 2-2 5, Chase 4-10 5-7 13, Gibson 4-11 4-5 12, Brown 4-12 3-4 14, Purvis 1-9 2-2 4, Barnes 1-4 3-4 5, Ohman 3-5 3-4 9, Bogunovic 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 26-77 27-33 83.
Halftime--Maryland 41-19. Rebounds--Radford 49 (Cruise 9), Maryland 58 (Cross, Purvis 8). Assists--Radford 7 (Walton 5), Maryland 14 (Chase, Gibson, Purvis 3). A--836.
Pub Date: 12/29/96