COLLEGE PARK -- The fourth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team faced a pair of pesky challenges in last night's season opener against Princeton, namely an opponent determined to dictate a slow tempo and the absence of the Terps' best player, senior Crystal Langhorne.
Thanks to senior forward Jade Perry and junior point guard Kristi Toliver, Maryland slogged its way through both problems on the way to a 76-52 win over the Tigers in the opening round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Perry, who started in place of Langhorne, who sat out the game to rest a sprained ankle, had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Toliver played an exceptional all-around floor game with 16 points, 10 assists, three steals and only four turnovers.
The Tigers (0-1) used a patient motion offense to keep Maryland off balance, a choice that was reinforced with the absence of Langhorne, the mainstay of the Terps' half-court offense.
"We made small goals, and one of them was that we were going to try to out-slow Maryland," Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. "We tried to slow down on the offensive end, so that we couldn't let them run. We felt like it would be Maryland on Rollerblades and Princeton in sneakers. That's a really tough game to play in the half court."
And for most of the first half, Princeton's strategy paid off, as the Terps (1-0), while shooting 56 percent in the half, could not put the Tigers away. Toliver's three-pointer at the buzzer gave Maryland only its second double-digit advantage of the half.
"Princeton's a very good team. They're very disciplined," Toliver said. "They value the basketball, and that's going to help us prepare for the other teams that we're going to play against that do the exact same thing. We want to go up and down and push it and take advantage of opportunities that we have, but also, we want to be able to slow things down and do the same thing. [Last night] was just a good opener to do both those things."
The Terps hit five of their first seven shots in the second half to break open the close game.
"It was good to get the first game jitters out of the way and to play a game like this," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "We started off very slow in the first 10 minutes. The positive is that we can build off that in terms of our starts and getting through our first game."
The Terps advanced to Tuesday's quarterfinals of the WNIT without Langhorne, Maryland's first All-American in 18 years. Langhorne, the program's No. 3 all-time scorer and second all-time rebounder, never had missed a game before last night, ending a streak of 104 consecutive starts.
Frese said Langhorne's ankle will be evaluated before tomorrow's meeting with No. 6 Oklahoma at the nationally televised State Farm Tip-Off Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., and that the decision on whether she plays will be made at game time.
PRINCETON-Prichard 0-3 0-0 0, Downs 5-10 1-2 14, Cowher 5-12 3-3 13, O'Neill 2-5 0-0 6, Brown 2-9 2-2 6, Hill 1-2 1-2 3, Pool 1-3 0-0 3, Schurle 2-5 0-0 5, Micir 0-3 0-0 0, Berger 0-2 0-0 0, Digovich 1-2 0-0 2, Pietrzak 0-3 0-0 0, Stevens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-59 7-9 52. MARYLAND-Coleman 6-12 1-1 14, Perry 4-6 4-4 12, Harper 6-8 0-2 12, Strickland 4-8 0-0 9, Toliver 7-10 1-2 16, Lyons 0-0 0-0 0, Newman 2-6 0-0 5, Mingo 3-6 2-2 8. Totals 32-56 8-11 76. Half: Maryland, 39-29. 3-point goals: P 7-18 (Downs 3-4, O'Neill 2-3, Schurle 1-2, Pool 1-3, Brown 0-1, Micir 0-2, Prichard 0-3); M 4-13 (Newman 1-1, Strickland 1-3, Coleman 1-4, Toliver 1-4, Mingo 0-1). Rebounds: P 26 (Cowher 4); M 38 (Perry 11). Assists: P 8 (Hill 3); M 19 (Toliver 10). Total fouls: P 14, M 11. A: 5,205.