1996-97 Review & Highlights
The Maryland Terrapins made believers of many last season with an 18-10 mark, a third-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Picked to finish sixth in the preseason conference poll, the Terps finished third with a 9-7 record for its best finish since 1993. The Terps also returned to post-season action with an at-large bid in the Mideast Region.The spirit, fight and competitiveness of the 1997 team was evident in the season opener against the 15th-ranked Penn State Lady Lions. The Terps built a 10-point halftime advantage and held it late into the game, but Penn State converted two free throws with 11 seconds remaining for the 67-65 victory. Stephanie Cross led the Terps with 14 points and seven rebounds while Tiffany Brown, in her college debut, knocked down four three-pointers for all 12 of her points.
Maryland quickly put the Penn State loss to bed and went on to win nine consecutive games. Included in the victories were two tournament championships; the Rutgers Brother Holiday Tournament in Piscataway, N.J., and the Dial Classic at College Park. Cross was the MVP at the Brother Tournament and Kelley Gibson was selected to the all-tournament team. Cross averaged 15 points and four rebounds while Gibson averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. In the Dial Soap Classic, Sonia Chase was selected MVP after she averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds. Brown scored 23 points in the two games and was named to the all-tournament team.
Also in the streak was a 72-53 win over then-20th ranked Clemson at Cole Field House. Kalisa Davis led the Terps with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Tigers. Maryland's nine game win streak came to an end at the beginning of January. The Terps dropped games to conference foes Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia. But again the Terps rose to the occasion and won their next six games, including wins over ranked Duke and NC State in a span of six days.
Maryland defeated three ranked teams, including a season sweep of Clemson. The Terps defeated No. 14 Duke, 68-64, No. 15 NC State 54-51, and No. 20 Clemson, 72-53 at Cole Field House and 70-64 at Littlejohn Coliseum. The win over 21st-ranked Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum closed the season and gave the Terps a third-place finish in the conference, their best since 1993's second-place record of 11-5.
The Terps made their 15th appearance in the National Tournament, gaining an at-large berth in the Mideast Region where they faced the Purdue Boilermakers in Norfolk, Va. Cross recorded her fourth double-double performance of the season, netting 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Maryland's 74-48 loss to Purdue.