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Defense again carries Maryland women, 61-49 Terps beat SW Texas State for Dial Soap Classic title


COLLEGE PARK -- Tapes featuring the Maryland women's basketball team's offensive sets probably won't be highly sought at the local video store.

But as long as they play the kind of wilting defense they exhibited in last night's 61-49 win over Southwest Texas State in the championship game of the Dial Soap Classic, the Terps may be ready to star on a few marquees. It was Maryland's ninth straight victory.

For the second straight night, the Terps (9-1) looked mostly dazed and confused on offense, but their defense, which harassed Southwest Texas (3-6) into 36 percent shooting in the second half and forced 29 turnovers with 14 steals, was of Academy Award caliber.

"We'll have to play against some ranked teams to find out [how good the defense is], but we take pride in it. It's the focal point of every practice," said Maryland coach Chris Weller.

Sonia Chase (McDonogh), the tournament's most valuable player, had eight rebounds -- six on the offensive end -- and had a team-high 15 points, including Maryland's first seven points of the second half.

But it was freshman Tiffany Brown who triggered the decisive 11-4 run in a three-minute stretch late in the second half.

Brown, who had nine points, three assists and two steals, made two layups and assisted on two other scores in that sequence.

"We knew that we had to bear down on defense, and I was really into it. I forced a couple of turnovers, and I wanted to push it," Brown said.

At times this season, the Maryland defense has been spectacular, holding opponents below 50 points seven times in 10 games and allowing 46.7 points a game, third lowest in the nation.

Last night the defense had to be stellar because Maryland shot 40 percent. Junior Stephanie Cross, the Terps' leading scorer (12.4), had 10 points but didn't hit her first field goal until 35 minutes had been played, and only made two of 10 shots from the field.

"We've had a few players struggle in practice the last week or so, and it showed. I'm pleased to see that we can win with a pretty key player struggling like that," Weller said.

The Terps made 17 of 29 foul shots, which isn't impressive, except that Southwest Texas went to the line only seven times, making six.

"We didn't get into the bonus at all in the first half and only got two shots, and we didn't shoot the bonus in the second half until 1: 20 was left. That was the biggest difference," said Bobcats coach Linda Sharp.

For all the Terps' success, there is a wariness about whether they belong in the Top 25. They have faced two ranked teams, with a two-point, season-opening loss to then-No. 16 Penn State and a 19-point win over then-No. 20 Clemson.

As a result, Maryland, which has received points in the past three Associated Press polls, is not likely to crack the Top 25 unless it beats Georgia Tech and No. 20 North Carolina this week.

"Some of the other teams we've played have played some tough competition, but Maryland's got potential. It's just a question of whether they can play that consistently for 40 minutes every night because that [defense] creates so many offensive opportunities," said Sharp.

Weller says she and the team would like the recognition but will take more wins and continued exceptional play on defense in the absence of a Top 25 ranking.

"We're not going to let that define us. There are a lot of good teams out there, and what's important is to keep getting better," said Weller. "We have miles to go in terms of what we're capable of doing. We have a really promising future if we continue to work hard."

SOUTHWEST TEXAS -- Wilkerson 4-8 2-2 10, Copper 1-4 0-0 2, Farrier 4-5 0-0 8, Ervin 4-6 0-0 8, Wagner 7-17 1-1 16, Gordon 0-2 0-0 0, Burchette 0-1 0-0 0, Ceasaer 1-3 3-4 5, Flowers 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 6-7 49.

MARYLAND -- Cross 2-10 6-7 10, Davis 4-6 3-4 11, Bretz 0-2 0-0 0, Chase 7-12 1-6 15, Gibson 4-8 2-5 12, Brown 3-7 3-5 9, Purvis 1-4 2-2 4, Barnes 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 17-26 61.

Halftime--Maryland 29-26. Rebounds--Southwest Texas 33 (Wilkerson, Ervin 7), Maryland 33 (Cross 9). Assists--Southwest Texas 14 (Wilkerson, Cooper, Wagner 3), Maryland 9 (Chase, Brown 3). A--671.

Pub Date: 12/30/96

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