Terps face Colorado State, noise factor

In real terms, Gampel Pavilion on the University of Connecticut's campus in Storrs, is only 11 years old, hardly old enough to qualify for shrine status.

But, in women's basketball circles, Gampel, the 10,000-seat home of the defending champion and top-ranked Huskies and 47 straight regular-season sellouts, is sacred territory, and its aura may be powerful enough to have an effect on tonight's Maryland-Colorado State NCAA tournament game.


"I've been to the gym. I know how the crowd is. It's a great atmosphere to play in. I'm very excited," said Maryland guard Marche Strickland, a native of Kingston, Mass. "I know a little bit of what to expect. The crowd is endless, and it's noisy. You feel the rush."

And while Connecticut partisans will likely view the Terps-Rams game, the nightcap of tonight's first-round doubleheader, as a curiosity more than an event to take sides on, the rush of a packed house will be something different, particularly for Maryland, where crowds in the hundreds are more the norm.


"We'll try to look at it as, 'What a great place to be able to play,' because they [Connecticut fans] really love women's basketball," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "Let's go up there and be excited about this opportunity to play in front of a great crowd.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere, and it's going to be new for our team. Any team going into that environment is going to be excited, energized, hopefully not intimidated. Hopefully, we'll have a great game against Colorado State."

A great game would be icing for the Terps (17-12), the eighth seed in the East, who weren't all that certain they would get an invitation to the tournament party, their first NCAA trip in four years.

Maryland's standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference - tied for fifth with Virginia - combined with the loss to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals and its large number of defeats overall made for an anxious week in College Park before Sunday's pairings.

"We felt like we belonged in the tournament, but seeing our names on the screen made us feel as though our hard work wasn't for nothing," said forward Rosita Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the Rams (24-6) were expecting something a little better than the ninth seed in the East. After all, they won the Mountain West Conference tournament and have a decent NCAA tournament record, winning at least one game in each of their previous three appearances.

Moreover, Colorado State, which averaged 2,300 fans a game in Fort Collins, was hoping that if it had to play a high seed on its home court, as the bottom 12 seeds in each region must do in either the first or second round of the women's tournament, that it would have a chance to make it back to the Midwest Regional in Denver with a couple of wins.

"If we were going to get an 8 or 9 seed, why not keep us in the Midwest," said Colorado State coach Tom Collen. "It's pretty tough to come all the way across country and then potentially get to play UConn on their court. But we're looking forward to the challenge.'


The game should present the proverbial contrast in styles, as Maryland traditionally looks to pound the ball inside to Deedee Warley or Melbourne, with Strickland and Renneika Razor as outside relief valves, while the Rams will run and shoot, particularly from three-point range.

Colorado State, winner of nine of its last 11, is 10th in the nation in successful three-pointers, and hit for 10 threes in a game seven times this season for an overall 35 percent clip. Its 619 attempts were more than double the 248 Maryland took for the year, and 125 more than any of Maryland's ACC rivals.

The Maryland-Colorado State winner will advance to Monday's second round, also at Storrs, against the winner of tonight's Connecticut-Long Island game.