COLLEGE PARK -Late in the first half of the 11th-ranked Maryland women's 67-47 victory over Rutgers yesterday afternoon, junior forward Dee Liles set a screen to help Kristi Toliver escape a trap on the perimeter. As Liles, 6 feet 1, braced herself, Kia Vaughn - the Scarlet Knights' strong, 6-4 center - went crashing into her, and the 12,861 announced fans at Comcast Center let out a collective "ooof!" at the collision. Toliver broke free and fed Marah Strickland for an open three-pointer.
The Terrapins' victory was filled with physical moments like that. Toliver (18 points) was hit in the face at one point, and senior Marissa Coleman was pushed to the floor several times and had her headband knocked off on one drive to the basket.
"They're an aggressive team, and they really pride themselves on the defensive end," said Coleman, who scored a game-high 22 points and added 10 rebounds. "So coming into this game, the coaching staff said whenever we drive to the lane, just expect contact."
The Scarlet Knights (14-10), who beat the Terrapins (21-4) last season in New Jersey, were ranked third in the preseason but dropped out of the rankings in late January. They came to Comcast having lost four of their past seven games, and they struggled from the beginning against a Maryland team known more for its offensive explosiveness than its defensive stinginess.
Rutgers missed 11 of its first 12 shots, and only a three at the buzzer from senior Heather Zurich (11 points) kept it from its lowest point total of the season. The Scarlet Knights made just 18 of 73 shots (24.7 percent).
"I thought that Maryland played better defense than I've seen them play. I think they enjoyed playing defense today, and they were aggressive," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.
The Terrapins, who averaged 88.7 points on 52 percent shooting in their previous three games, also had to work on offense. They shot 40 percent from the field and had limited opportunities to run (six fast-break points). But Maryland shot 28 free throws (14 by Coleman) and made 23.
MARYLAND (21-4, 8-2) @GA. TECH (18-7, 5-5)
Thursday, 7 p.m.