COLLEGE PARK - As the senior stars of the 12th-ranked Maryland women, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman get the honor of going last in pre-game introductions, running onto the court to the biggest cheers inside darkened Comcast Center. And once the lights go on, rarely do they disappoint.
Both players struggled at times with their shot in last night's game against second-ranked North Carolina, but they were the driving forces in Maryland's 77-71 victory. Coleman carried the Terrapins early, scoring 18 of her 22 points in the first half, and then Toliver took over late, scoring 18 of her 23 points in the second half.
"They're winners through and through, and they're just clicking on all cylinders together," coach Brenda Frese said. "When they click like that, our team then just follows their lead."
A season-high announced 12,671 celebrated Maryland's first win over North Carolina since the 2006 Final Four. But there was also an undercurrent of sadness, as both teams paid tribute to Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach from North Carolina State who died Saturday morning after a decades-long battle with breast cancer.
A moment of silence for Yow, whose sister Debbie is Maryland's athletic director, was held before the game, and both head coaches paired their black pantsuits with pink shirts. Maryland's players wore pale pink warm-up shirts, and the Tar Heels went one step further, swapping out their traditional light-blue uniforms for ones of a deep pink.
"Everyone in women's basketball has been impacted by Coach Yow," Frese said. "Every single person she met and touched, we all loved Coach Yow."
The Terrapins (16-3, 4-1), who had a full six days to prepare for the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite, put the finishing touches on a very long week for the Tar Heels (17-3, 3-2). North Carolina was blown out at home by top-ranked Connecticut on Monday, upset by unranked Georgia Tech on Thursday, and then forced to practice at 6 a.m. on Friday.
At practice Friday, Frese stressed the importance of rebounding and reducing the number of transition layups by the fleet Tar Heels. Overall, the Terrapins did well on both accounts: They held a 51-38 rebounding edge - their starting front court of Coleman, Demauria Liles and Lynetta Kizer combined for 34 rebounds, including 17 offensive - and limited North Carolina to just eight fast-break points.
NO. 12 MARYLAND (16-3, 4-1) @NO. 16 VIRGINIA (15-4, 2-2)