COLLEGE PARK -- Reeling from losses in its previous two games, the University of Maryland women's basketball team gave Kelley Gibson a nice Cole Field House send-off yesterday with a 92-79 Atlantic Coast Conference win over Georgia Tech.
The senior from Easton picked up nine points and eight assists to close out her home-court career before a season-high crowd of 3,124, which ended with her witnessing a small step in the growth of her younger teammates.
"It seems like I've been here for years, but it's all gone so fast," Gibson said. "It's a great way to go out, but we still have more games. It's just unfortunate that this is my last game playing here."
Said Maryland coach Chris Weller: "Obviously, we're happy to win on senior day for Kelley, because she's been a leader for us all season long. Kelley played the solid game that she always does."
Gibson's career had been partly defined by her three knee injuries. The last of them happened before this season, keeping her out of the first nine games, all Maryland losses.
Eventually, with the return of Gibson and with Tiffany Brown back, Maryland (6-20, 3-13 ACC) showed improvement.
Weller said her team began to take its record to heart, which led to bad play. That ended yesterday as the Terps peppered the Yellow Jackets (13-13, 6-10) with 55 percent shooting to assure themselves of a seventh-place tie with Wake Forest.
The Terps will play Wake in the first round of the ACC tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday at 6 p.m..
"The last week was not a good week for us. We didn't have a lot of respect for ourselves," Weller said. "You don't go play quite as hard. You go through the motions the same, but there's a lot more pep in your step when you believe."
Georgia Tech had a little more at stake, with ebbing NCAA tournament hopes on the line. These depended upon a win against the Terps and at least a pair in the ACC tournament. Instead, those hopes were extinguished by guards Marche Strickland and Brown in the first half, and by inside players Deedee Warley and Branka Bogunovic in the second.
Bogunovic scored 16 points in each of two wins over the Yellow Jackets last season, forcing Tech coach Agnes Berenato to have her defense sag back to protect the interior. The price was leaving Brown and Strickland open to hit two three-pointers apiece as Maryland took a 41-30 halftime lead.
"It helped me warm up, but I didn't see it as any big deal," Strickland said after making eight of 12 shots from the field and scoring 19 points to end a 16-for-45 slump over the previous 10 games.
In the second half, Brown (14 points, 11 assists) alternated between feeding the ball down low to Warley and Bogunovic (22 points, 16 rebounds).
Warley made seven shots in a row at one point as Maryland took a 69-56 lead with 8: 58 to go, and she finished with 20 points.
GEORGIA TECH -- Williams 9-16 9-10 27, Tate 4-9 2-2 10, Muir 0-1 1-2 1, Donehew 5-14 2-2 15, Butler 3-12 2-5 9, Fails 2-4 4-4 8, Martinez 2-8 3-4 7, Kruppa 0-6 2-4 2. Totals 25-70 25-33 79.
MARYLAND -- Warley 9-12 2-4 20, Gibson 3-9 3-4 9, Bogunovic 8-12 6-13 22, Brown 2-6 8-10 14, Strickland 8-12 0-0 19, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Ilic 0-0 0-0 0, Perry 1-1 2-2 5, Agba 0-0 0-0 0, Gabriel 0-0 3-4 3, Ferris 0-4 0-1 0, Melbourne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-56 24-38 92.
Halftime--Maryland, 41-30. Three-point goals--GT 4-15 (Donehew 3-10, Butler 1-3, Martinez 0-1, Kruppa 0-1); M 6-11 (Strickland 3-3, Brown 2-4, Perry 1-1, Gibson 0-3). Rebounds--GT 40 (Tate, Williams 8); M 44 (Bogunovic 16). Assists--GT 13 (Butler, Martinez, Tate 3); M 25 (Brown 11). Total fouls--GT 24, M 26. A--3,124.
Pub Date: 2/22/99