The Associated Press
The Associated Press
BOSTON – Overtime belongs to Maryland. So does the NCAA championship.
Freshman Kristi Toliver hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to cap a 13-point comeback, then made two free throws with 35 seconds left in overtime last night to give the Terrapins their first NCAA women’s basketball title with a 78-75 victory over Duke.
Piling up on the court, hugging and bumping chests, the Terrapins reveled in the youth that had been the biggest doubt surrounding them coming into the tournament. Even coach Brenda Frese, a former University of Arizona player, who was the coach of the year at 32 and a national champion at 35, is on the precocious side.
“Age is just a number,” Frese said. “When you got kids that believe and they believe in each other and they got that kind of confidence, you can accomplish anything as a team.”
Maryland (34-4) is 6-0 in overtime games this season – the first five on the road and the last in the championship – to complete the second-largest comeback in a women’s final. It was the first time the title was determined in overtime since Tennessee beat Virginia in 1991.
The Maryland players stormed the court twice – once after Toliver’s basket forced overtime and again when Blue Devils guard Jessica Foley’s desperation, well-covered 3-point attempt nicked the front of the rim at the overtime buzzer.
Foley made two free throws with 18 seconds left in regulation to give Duke a 70-67 lead, then Frese called a timeout to set up a play. Toliver, who had 12 turnovers in the semifinal victory over North Carolina, brought the ball down and veered to the right. With Duke’s Alison Bales in her face, she put the 3-pointer through the net with 6.1 seconds left.
“And I even felt her fingertips as I was holding my follow through,” Toliver said. “So, she did a great job contesting. I just had a lot of confidence. And I knew I wanted to take the big shot so I just took it.”
Duke (31-4) opted not to call a timeout. Lindsey Harding brought the ball down the court and put up a desperation leaner from the right baseline that went off the rim.