COLLEGE PARK -- The season debuts of Tiffany Brown and Kelley Gibson didn't result in a masterful performance by the Maryland women's basketball team, which dropped an 81-61 decision to No. 15 Rutgers last night at Cole Field House.
But the output wasn't hopeless for the Terps (0-9), who played with a newfound confidence, coming from the return of their missing guards.
"That was the best game we've played all season," Maryland coach Chris Weller said, "though a lot of it has to do with [Brown and Gibson]. We have a whole new pattern now, and a whole new lineup."
Gibson, who had been out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament since the beginning of the season, had 13 points and four assists in her first game of the season, while Brown -- back from academic suspension -- had 11 points and seven assists, hitting three three-pointers. The two were joined in double figures by center Branka Bogunovic, who had 14 points.
Brown had been expecting this game to be her return date because Maryland's semester ended last week.
But with her third knee injury, Gibson's return was more of a surprise, coming only a week after she was cleared to practice.
"It felt pretty good," Gibson said of her knee. "I was trying not to think about it. I was just trying to get back into the flow of the game."
Maryland never led after the 15: 48 mark in the first half, when Tasha Pointer hit two free throws to put Rutgers (9-2) up 7-6.
The turnover total, which was supposed to shrink with the return of Brown and Gibson, did not. Maryland gave up 26 turnovers, twice as many as it committed in a loss to Wake Forest on Dec. 13.
But while matched against a team that returned nearly everyone from a Sweet 16 appearance last year, the Terps consistently responded to Rutgers' jabs during the first half.
Down 20-12 with nearly nine minutes remaining in the first half, Maryland battled back with a three-point play by Gibson and a three-point basket by Brown tying the game with 5: 48 left.
The Terps made seven turnovers in the next four minutes, allowing the Scarlet Knights a 9-0 run. Freshman Marche Strickland and Rosita Melbourne helped Maryland close the gap to 31-25 by the half.
But Maryland lapsed during the middle of the second half, allowing a 12-4 run over five minutes.
Pub Date: 12/23/98