Top-seed Maryland breezes past Dartmouth 82-53
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)—Kristi Toliver felt like she couldn’t miss, and her Maryland teammates were more than happy to make sure the senior guard had every opportunity to play out the hunch.
Toliver scored 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting, and the third-ranked Terrapins opened the NCAA tournament by cruising past Dartmouth 82-53 Sunday.
At halftime, Toliver had 23 points—and so did Dartmouth.
“It’s tournament time. It’s time to play your best,” she said. “I was definitely feeling it.”
Realizing that Toliver was in the zone, her teammates simply passed her the ball and got out of the way.
“I love seeing when Kristi’s in that kind of attack mode. I think it really helps our team to be aggressive,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean, they had to find a way to be able to stop her. Every game we’re going to have different matchups, and she was able to exploit that matchup.”
Top-seeded Maryland (29-4) will next face Utah in the second round of the Raleigh Regional. The Utes advanced with a 60-30 rout of Villanova.
The Terrapins will bring a 35-game home winning streak into Tuesday’s contest.
“Home games in the women’s tournament are not good, certainly, unless you’re the home team. That’s the reality,” Utah coach Elaine Elliott said. “There’s no doubt that it’s a huge challenge, and there’s no doubt that the advantage is theirs.”
Maryland bolted to an 8-0 lead against Dartmouth and never trailed. Toliver outscored the Big Green 14-7 in helping the Terrapins build an early 15-point cushion, and the margin swelled to 19 at halftime.
“We tried to keep things simple and we tried to get to the rim,” Toliver said. “We definitely wanted to attack the basket and I think we did that early and often.”
Brittney Smith scored 13 for 16th-seed Dartmouth (18-11), but she missed 15 of 19 shots. No Ivy League team has played in more NCAA tournaments (seven), but the Big Green still haven’t won a game.
Dartmouth hoped to keep it close by slowing down the pace, but after the Big Green missed their first nine shots they had no choice but to begin playing with an increased sense of urgency. Problem was, Toliver couldn’t miss and Dartmouth couldn’t hit the broad side of the backboard.
Toliver sank her first five shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. On the other end of the court, the Big Green opened 3-for-22 from the floor in falling behind 22-7.
Had Toliver not been rested for three minutes in the first half, she almost certainly would have outscored the Big Green before intermission. She exited for good with 11:28 left in the game and Maryland up 60-37.
“I don’t think that we’re the only ones that she presents problems to,” Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said. “Everyone seems to have problems with her. She’s the type of player where she probably has to stop herself before anyone else in the nation is going to stop her.”
It was 35-20 before Toliver made two layups and a 3-pointer in a 7-1 burst that put the Terps ahead 42-21. The second layup came on a no-look pass from senior Marissa Coleman, who, along with Toliver, are the lone holdovers from the 2006 national championship team.
Coleman finished with 13 rebounds, nine points and five assists.
“I thought we were able to set the tone early and did a tremendous job with the leadership of our two seniors,” Frese said. “That’s what we’re going to have to have each and every game.”
In the second half, Dartmouth closed to 52-37 before the Terrapins pulled away with an 8-0 run that ended with Toliver hitting the bench for good. After that, just about the only time she rose to her feet was to applaud when a teammate skidded to the sideline in pursuit of a loose ball.
Attendance was 10,847, an increase of more than 3,000 from the crowd of 7,580 at Maryland’s first-round game last year at Comcast Center.