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Maryland Loses in Spotlight : Women's basketball: Before school and ACC record 14,500, No. 1 Terrapins fall, 75-74, to No. 2 Virginia.


COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Virginia's Dawn Staley drove the lane, dribbled behind her back and kept moving into Maryland's Limor Mizrachi and the padding underneath the basket.

Mizrachi gave way. Staley went sprawling and simply remained in that position, wondering if Virginia could maintain its two-point, second-half lead. Mizrachi helped her up--nothing unusual there. Then she patted Staley on the back.

That was different.

It was simple acknowledgment of a hard play in a momentous game as second-ranked Virginia defeated No. 1 Maryland, 75-74, Tuesday night at Cole Field House.

This game went beyond the significance of No. 1 vs. No. 2. For years, the Maryland women's team was regarded as a neglected little sister. Not disliked or anything. Just ignored.

The era of indifference ended Tuesday. On hand were 14,500 spectators, a school and Atlantic Coast Conference women's record. It was the fourth-largest crowd in NCAA history to see a regular-season women's basketball game.

Said Mizrachi, searching for the correct word: "It was historic, right?"

Almost everyone was in agreement. The game even lived up to its hype. The Terrapins could have won it with two seconds remaining. But center Jessie Hicks' 10-foot jump shot hit the rim and fell off.

Maryland's Chris Weller, in her 17th season, always dreamed of an event such as this, but was she starting to wondering whether it would happen in her coaching lifetime.

Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan had to pause to search for words.

"It's hard to explain how you feel about it when you've been in this as long as I have," said Ryan, who is in her 15th season at Virginia. "It was so exciting to just to be a part of the biggest game to be played up here this year--male or female.

"Everyone was so excited to get this game out there on the court. I always dreamed about it, but I don't know if I ever really believed it would happen."

The previous women's attendance record at Maryland was 3,014, set in 1989 against Tennessee. On Tuesday, even Weller was spotted smiling, an unusual occurrence. She later issued a disclaimer. "It was before the game," she said.

With the game's intensity, no one had a chance to smile later on. The momentum swung wildly during the first half. Maryland had a seven-point lead, only to lose the advantage. Virginia, 21-1 overall and 11-1 in the ACC, led by six points near the end of the half, but the Terrapins fought back to pull within 42-40 at halftime.

Heidi Burge made two baskets in a row to give Virginia the lead for good, 55-51.

Virginia's all-American backcourt of Staley (19 points and nine assists) and Tammi Reiss (15 points) were the difference, in addition to Heather Burge's 24 points and 17 rebounds. In the Cavaliers' 67-65 loss to Maryland earlier this season, Staley and Reiss shot a combined seven for 32.

Leading Maryland (20-2, 10-1) was forward Dafne Lee with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Malissa Boles scored 20 points, and the Cavaliers held Mizrachi to 11.

Ryan was concerned when Staley started by passing up shots. "I made it clear to her that she was going to have 25 or 30 points tonight," said Ryan, "or she was walking home. Then you noticed that she started taking shots."

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