#3: Ailing Terps Fight for Final Four
Aug. 16, 2012
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Less than a day before game time in Albuquerque, N.M., almost every player and staff member of the Maryland women's basketball team was sick with a nasty stomach virus. The Terps were forced to skip their practice leading into their Elite Eight game with Utah and instead, walked through plays in the parking lot.
Determined not to let a virus stand in the way of their destiny, they dug deep for a 75-65 win over No. 18 Utah in overtime on March 27, 2006. Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver led the way with 28 points.
"It's impossible for me to think about this game without remembering that sick feeling in my stomach," head coach Brenda Frese said. "I'm still not sure how we managed to put a team on the floor for this game, let alone find a way to win it. The stomach virus that hit us was a really violent one. By the time it was done with us, nine of our 12 players had it. I think Ashleigh Newman got hit at halftime of the game. Kristi Toliver didn't even participate in warm-ups, but instead sat on the bench sipping on Gatorade, trying to hold it down. Somehow, she managed to score 28 points. That will always be one of the most legendary performances in our history."
"We couldn't even have a pre-game practice, because between our staff and players too many people were sick. I spent the whole night before in the bathroom. We held a quick walk-through in the hotel parking lot, but otherwise kept our players away from each other, hoping it wouldn't spread. Utah was a really good team and the stuff they ran wasn't simple to defend, so we really entered this game unprepared."
The Terrapins led through the final 16 minutes of the game and expanded their lead to as much as nine points. With 6:44 to play, the Terps led 61-54, but a 9-2 run in the final minutes helped Utah tie it up.
With seven seconds remaining and the Terrapins up 63-62, Ashleigh Newman was whistled for a foul that would send Utah's Shona Thorburn to the line for the possible winning free throws. Thorburn had gone 4-for-4 from the foul line in those final minutes of regulation, but as she stepped to the line for two more, she clanged the first one off the rim. The Terps couldn't hold back their relief. She made the second, then Toliver and Shay Doron both threw up shots to try to win in regulation.
As the buzzer sounded and the game went into overtime, the Terps had a renewed energy. They were 4-0 in overtime games that year and new overtime was their time.
"When the game went to overtime, I was a relieved, because we were still alive, but I was also really concerned, because I knew we didn't have much in our tanks," Frese said. "Laura Harper had been in foul trouble all game, but came to life in overtime. We needed someone to step up and Harp did it. Crystal Langhorne was her typical incredible self, earning region MVP."
Harper scored six points and grabbed two key rebounds in overtime. The Terps' defense in the extra period held Utah to no field goals and just two points in overtime.
The win sent the Terps to Boston for their first trip to the Final Four under Frese and first since 1989. Earlier in the season when they were in Boston to take on Boston College, Frese had taken them to the TD Garden, just to envision themselves there. After battling through illness and overtime, they were finally able to go there for real.