COLLEGE PARK - For 40 minutes, they were a superhero duo in basketball uniforms. Neither wore a cape, but the thrashing they delivered to one of the nation's top teams felt like something out of a comic book. Only at times, it was tough to figure out who was supposed to be the sidekick.
Kristi Toliver from the wing - POW!
Marissa Coleman driving the lane - BAM!
Toliver bounce pass to Coleman underneath - KABOOM!
The bad news is the No. 9 Maryland women's basketball team might have a problem when it comes to depth at the guard position.
The good news, however, is that it might not matter, not if Toliver and Coleman come even close to replicating their performances in yesterday's 77-59 win over rival No. 7 Duke.
To put it in the best perspective: Toliver and Coleman combined for 58 points. The entire Blue Devils team scored just one more point than the two Terps seniors.
"I don't think I've ever seen a stat sheet with 34 and 24 points from the two guard spots," Duke coach Joanne McCallie said, staring incredulously at the final numbers. "That's pretty remarkable."
Just 24 hours after Greivis Vasquez turned in one of the best performances by a Maryland men's basketball player, Toliver took advantage of the hot court. She drilled shots from the top of the key. From the wing. From the corner. At one point, you would swear she was five rows deep in the stands, swishing yet another three-pointer.
She finished with 34 points - just one shy of a career high - shooting 12-for-21 from the field and 7-for-13 from behind the arc.
Her play almost single-handedly kept the Terps within striking distance of the lead in the first half - her teammates were just 2-for-20 from the field at the break - and helped propel them past the Blue Devils in the second.
It was as big a statement win as Maryland could hope for at this stage of the season. Not only did it come against a team that annually haunts Terps dreams - Maryland had lost to Duke in 21 of the previous 26 meetings, including a 68-65 loss last month in Durham, N.C. - but it toppled the Blue Devils just a couple of weeks before the conference tournament begins.
Though two games remain for Maryland, it's within reason to expect it to close the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. That stretch includes wins over three ranked teams - quite a bit of momentum to push a group into the postseason.
"[I] just love where this team is playing. ... We're just clicking," Terps coach Brenda Frese said.
The question that will surround these Terps as the postseason begins won't be whether players such as Toliver and Coleman can score enough points. Frese's concern will be: What if they don't?
The Terps said goodbye yesterday to senior guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood. She was a much-heralded transfer from Tennessee three years ago, but her career at Maryland never hit a groove, as she was hampered by knee injuries and struggled to find a role in a talented lineup. She left for "personal reasons."
Still, her departure could prove costly. Depth hasn't been a strong point for these Terps. And limited as she was at times, Wiley-Gatewood had started 14 games and averaged 19.3 minutes. (Her numbers were modest - 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.)
But without her - as illustrated last night - there's not a whole lot else in the cupboard. In yesterday's win, only five of the Terps' 77 points came from the bench. (No, Maryland didn't need a lot of help, but for comparison's sake, Duke's reserves chipped in 25.)
While it helps to have a versatile player such as Coleman who can play inside and outside, with Wiley-Gatewood curiously leaving the team during the most exciting part of her final season, the Terps are left only with Anjale Barrett, a freshman from New York with a great shooting touch but no experience in tournament play.
"This team is resilient. ... They're very, very close," Frese said, "and they're going to continue playing for each other."
Against Duke, the Terps needed everything they could get out of Toliver and Coleman. Toliver played the first 38 minutes. She didn't leave the court until the game was decidedly in hand, with the Terps enjoying an 18-point lead.
That's a luxury Maryland might not be able to count on every night.
Though you never really know. With the Terps' dynamic duo using momentum for fuel, there's no telling whether yesterday's dominant performance against a pretty good Duke team can be replicated or even topped.
"We're peaking at the right time, but we're not satisfied," Frese said. "We still feel like we can continue to improve."
Terps women defeat Duke, 77-59, to win seventh straight PG 4