The Associated Press
The Associated Press
BOSTON – The NCAA women’s basketball tournament will end with an absolute certainty: An Atlantic Coast Conference team will win the national championship.
Duke plays Maryland in an all-ACC final tomorrow night after the two rivals won their semifinal games yesterday.
Maryland surprised top-ranked North Carolina 81-70 in the Final Four’s first all-ACC matchup. Then Duke joined its league cohort in the title game by shutting down LSU and National Player of the Year Seimone Augustus in a 64-45 victory.
It’s the third time two teams from the same conference have reached the women’s championship game. Both previous cases involved Tennessee beating Southeastern Conference rivals – Auburn in 1989 and Georgia in 1996.
Maryland (33-4), in its third Final Four, reached the championship game for the first time. Duke’s only other appearance in the title game ended with a 62-45 loss to Purdue in 1999. The Blue Devils (31-3) are in the Final Four for the fourth time.
The championship game appearance takes Maryland one more step in a remarkable climb under fourth-year coach Brenda Frese, a former Arizona Wildcat, who was just 10-18 in her first season.
“Coach Frese, from Day 1, said this team is going to do special things,” Maryland freshman Marissa Coleman said. “Now we’re the first (Maryland) team in the final game.”
Coleman is an example of what Maryland is all about – youth. The Terrapins start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.
“I think that makes us better because we have nothing to lose,” Coleman said. “We just go out there and have fun.”
Both teams have great balance and a second-team All-American – Monique Currie for Duke, Crystal Langhorne for Maryland. But Duke is deeper and more experienced. Ten Duke players average double figures in minutes and nine average at least 5.6 points.
Maryland has five players averaging in double figures and had four double-figure scorers against North Carolina, Laura Harper leading with 24 and Langhorne adding 23.
Duke also had four double-figure scorers in its semifinal win, led by Mistie Williams’ 14 points.
Duke won both regular-season ACC games with Maryland, but the Terrapins pulled out a 78-70 win in the semifinals of the conference tournament a month ago. With that victory, Maryland broke a 14-game losing streak to Duke that began in 2001.
The Terrapins held Duke to 36 percent shooting in that game and did a better job against Currie, who scored 18 points but shot just 6 for 17. She had scored 31 on 13-for-21 shooting in Duke’s victory in Durham.