COLLEGE PARK -- In more ways than one, Maryland's women finally hit a winning note.
With the return of Tiffany Brown and Kelley Gibson, the five freshmen who had tried holding the fort for the basketball team in their absence had been supposed to return to secondary roles.
But as Marche Strickland and Deedee Warley proved to Coppin State during an 82-63 win in the ninth Terrapin Classic last night, they've learned the ropes too well to slip back into the shadows.
The pair combined for 45 points and 17 rebounds to help the Terps end a 10-game losing streak dating back to a win over national semifinalist North Carolina State in last season's ACC tournament.
"What a switch," Maryland coach Chris Weller said. "We'd been in situations where we were in the game in the second half and didn't win because we didn't believe that we could. It's nice to win so that we know that we can win."
Maryland (1-9) was well on the road from futility -- cruising with a 46-36 lead -- when Coppin (4-5) struck back at about the 13-minute mark.
Four Coppin players accounted for nine points during a run that closed the gap to 48-45 after a layup by Liesha Mitchell with 10: 50 left. That was when the newcomers -- who had accounted for 71 percent of the scoring in the eight games before the return of Brown and Gibson -- took over, led by Strickland and Warley.
First, there was a jumper by Strickland, who finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Then came an assist from Warley to Branka Bogunovic (14 points, 10 rebounds), followed by one of Warley's 15-foot jumpers on a night on which she scored 23 points and had nine rebounds.
By the time Cara Ferris' steal set up a Brown layup with 8: 41 left, the Terps had a 56-47 lead.
"They've had to do it all," Weller said about the young group's effort in the first eight games. She said she told the freshmen at halftime: "Call this January. You're no longer inexperienced."
The Terps ended up dominating the Eagles. After ceding the game's first three points to Coppin forward Trisha Allen, Maryland scored the next 11 on the way to a 17-5 lead after a Gibson jumper with 13: 33 left in the half. Maryland led at intermission, 34-26.
Late in the game, Coppin had a last chance, closing the gap to 58-55 on a Mitchell free throw with 6: 40 left. But the Eagles went scoreless over the next four minutes, at the end of which Maryland held a 74-55 lead.
In the final, Maryland will face Richmond, which advanced with the help of 21 points from Heather Aleshire in an 84-70 win over Massachusetts. The Spiders hit a school and Cole Field House record of 17 three-pointers.
Pub Date: 12/29/98