Mississippi 89, Maryland 78

Tuesday, March 20th 2007, 9:54 pm
By: News On 6

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Maryland fell into Mississippi's trap and the defending NCAA champion never got out.

Ole Miss (23-10) used its stifling defense to steal the ball 15 times and scored 42 points off 29 Maryland turnovers and the Rebels upset the No. 2 seed Terrapins 89-78 in the Dayton Regional on Tuesday night.

``I think the game is really simple,'' Mississippi coach Carol Ross said. ``You guard hard, you create ball plays, you let ball players make ball plays. You put them into position to do that.''

Maryland was expected to have a good chance at repeating as national champions with all five starters returning. The Terps added depth with transfer Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, but it wasn't enough to stop them from a disappointing second round loss.

``A season ago, we loved the fact that we had youth,'' Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ``I think it really hurt us tonight and spiraled in terms of our frustration and Ole Miss fed off of it.''

Armintie Price scored 28 points to lead the Rebels, the same Ole Miss team that was blown out by the Terps 110-79 at a tournament in the Bahamas in November.

This time there was a lot more on the line.

``This time we were trying to win a championship, we were playing for bigger and better things, so we were more focused,'' Price said.

Mississippi will play No. 3 Oklahoma in the Dayton Regional semifinals. The third-seeded Sooners beat Marquette 78-47 on Monday.

Kristi Toliver led Maryland (28-6) with 24, including 14 in the second half when the Terps cut a 23-point lead to seven. But she also had 10 turnovers.

``Kristi is a tremendous shooting for us and when she can knock down shot for us her game is really flowing,'' Frese said. ``In terms of all our point guards, we need to take better care of the basketball.''

Maryland made its final run with 6 minutes left after Ole Miss' Alliesha Easley was injured battling for and offensive rebound and Shantell Black hit two free throws to make it 75-60. The Terps, led by Toliver, went on a 12-4 run to make it 79-72.

But Shay Doron and Marissa Coleman fouled out late, and the Rebels hit their free throws down the stretch.

``We shoot the ball better than anyone in the country, and we just couldn't get good looks,'' Doron said. ``We just couldn't get good shots and we just kept turning the ball over and they got easy layups out of that.''

Ashley Awkward had 22, and Easley, who was able to come back at the end of the game, had 16 for Ole Miss.

Coleman had 20, 13 after intermission, and Crystal Langhorne added 14 for Maryland.

Ross said November's loss came before her team had found its running, pressing, trapping identity.

It was on display from the start this time. After trailing 6-2 early, The Rebels went on an 18-0 run, led by Price, who hit her first six shots.

Ole Miss forced Maryland into 20 first-half turnovers, stealing the ball 10 times.

The Rebels led by as many as 23 and took a 47-30 lead into the half.

``It was all about our defense, all about trapping, all about stealing and about making plays,'' Awkward said. ``That lead gave us a cushion in the final stretch.''

Doron, who scored 21 points in the first round, finished with nine.

Ole Miss shot over 55 percent from the floor and won despite being outrebounded 46-29.

The Terps early exit matches the quickest departure for any NCAA champion. Purdue in 2000 and Notre Dame in 2002 also went out in second-round games.

Maryland had won its last seven NCAA games. The defending national champions had beaten 31 consecutive nonconference opponents, including Harvard, 89-65 in the first round.

Price had three steals and needs just four more for 400 in her career. That would make her just the second player in women's NCAA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals. The other is former USC star Cheryl Miller.

This was Mississippi's 17th trip to the NCAA tournament, but the first appearance in the third round since 1992.