Coleman, Toliver say goodbye to home court with big win over Utah

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- With a victory in hand and their workload completed, Maryland seniors Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver walked off their home court for the last time.

They received a standing ovation from the spirited crowd, and each absorbed a hug from Terrapins coach Brenda Frese.

Toliver and Coleman wore smiles on the bench as the top-seeded Terrapins closed out a 71-56 win over Utah on Tuesday night to advance to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

Later, however, Toliver recalled the moment as being bittersweet.

"I won't lie: I got a little emotional. I didn't want it to end," she said. "I knew that was the last time we would be playing in front of the best fans in the country. So I'm sad. It's too bad that it's over, but it's a good feeling knowing that we still have games left to be played."

The Terrapins (30-4) face Vanderbilt (26-8) on Saturday in the semifinals of the Raleigh Regional. Maryland beat the Commodores 80-66 last year in the third round.

In their final home game, Coleman and Toliver put on the type of performance that defined their spectacular careers at Maryland. Coleman had 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, and Toliver deftly directed the offense and scored 17.

"Those two are phenomenal 1-on-1 players," Utah coach Elaine Elliott said. "Those two kids are just simply extremely talented."

Utah (23-10) probably would have had trouble defeating the Terrapins under any circumstances. But the Utes had to play in an arena where Maryland had won 35 straight and before 10,065 fans intent upon seeing Toliver and Coleman go out in style.

The seniors did their part, and finished with a 65-3 record at home.

"We know there's not a lot of time left, but obviously these are two special kids that have done so many special things for this program," Frese said.

This game, however, was more than a two-woman show. Forward Demauria Liles had 12 points and 17 rebounds, and Lynette Kizer and Marah Strickland each scored eight.

Kalee Whipple scored 24 and Morgan Warburton had 17 for No. 9 seed Utah (23-10). The Utes, who advanced with a 60-30 rout of Villanova, couldn't come up with a similar defensive performance against the more talented Terrapins.

Maryland won the rebounding battle 54-24; the Utes had been outrebounded in only five games all season and ranked 12th in the country in rebound margin.

Coleman had more rebounds at halftime (12) than Utah (9). The Terrapins finished with more offensive rebounds (25) than Utah grabbed at both ends of the court.

"It's just pure and simple -- their strength over us was just their physicality. We couldn't change that. We couldn't grow bigger. We couldn't grow heavier," Elliott said. "That was the difference in the two teams. We would have preferred that it wasn't a home game. ... [But] the differences in that game were apparent and that was something we wouldn't have overcome no matter where we played."

Although Maryland trailed by seven with just over 5 minutes elapsed, the Terrapins bounced back to go up 44-28 at the break.

The Utes never threatened to make a game of it in the second half.

In Maryland's opening 82-53 win over Dartmouth, the Terrapins scored the game's first eight points and never trailed. Utah got the early jump in this one, getting points from four different players and using 6-for-9 shooting to take a 15-8 lead.

"I knew we just needed to kind of get a rhythm, a feel, to be able to see and understand what we needed to do on the defensive end," Frese said. "I just knew that we needed to keep our poise and that we would be able to eventually get back to getting stops and rebounds."

Liles made two straight layups and Strickland sank a reverse layup off a no-look pass from Toliver to spark a 14-3 run that put the Terrapins up 22-18. Coleman hit three straight jumpers during the surge, and on the other end Utah missed eight of nine shots.

The lead swelled to 28-20, and after the Utes cut the margin in half, Toliver hit a jumper before layups by Strickland, Liles and Coleman started Maryland on a 12-0 run to end the half.