27-4, 12-4 Conf

No. 5 Maryland pulls away from Wake to reach ACC championship

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Brenda Frese didn't like the way her Maryland team struggled to keep determined Wake Forest off the boards or how the Demon Deacons were the aggressors through the first half.

She had a simple message at halftime for her team: Start rebounding or get on the bus to go home from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

The Terrapins (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) answered their coach's challenge, nearly doubling Wake Forest's total on the glass in the second half on the way to a 73-58 win in Saturday's semifinals.

Alyssa Thomas had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the third-seeded Terrapins (27-4), who shot 53 percent. But it wasn't until Frese saw her team play tougher that the Terps took control and earned another trip to the championship game.

"I like the fact that we were able to keep our composure," Frese said. "I thought specifically in the second half, we were really able to get back to playing how we play: We were able to defend, we were able to get on the glass and make plays. We shared the basketball."

Maryland advanced to Sunday's championship game for the third time in seven years and the first since winning the 2009 title. Maryland will face Georgia Tech (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP), the tournament's fourth seed who rolled past North Carolina State in Saturday's first semifinal.

Maryland can become the first ACC team to win 10 tournament titles by beating the Yellow Jackets for a third time this season.

Thomas, named ACC player of the year on Thursday, went 7 for 18 from the field and scored 13 points in the first half to help the Terps take a 33-27 lead at the break. Then Tianna Hawkins scored two baskets to push the lead to 37-27 with 18:34 left, putting the Demon Deacons in catch-up mode the rest of the afternoon.

Maryland turned a 21-20 halftime edge on the boards at halftime into a 47-34 rebounding advantage by the end of the game. The Terrapins also scored 10 of their 15 second-chance points in the second half.

"Like (Frese) said, we don't want to go home," Thomas said. "We knew the importance of possessions and getting second opportunities. We just fought as hard as we could."

So did the seventh-seeded Demon Deacons (19-13), who upset No. 7 Miami in Friday's quarterfinals. That pushed Wake Forest into the semifinals for the first time since 1988 and the third time ever, but the Demon Deacons shot 30 percent and couldn't re-create any of the magic from their big win against the second-seeded Hurricanes.

Wake Forest never got closer than five in the second half, as the Terrapins stretched their lead to 16 with about 8 minutes left.

Chelsea Douglas scored 14 points to lead the Demon Deacons.

Coach Mike Petersen said he had no complaints with his players' effort, particularly considering his team had 19 offensive rebounds. The only problem was they managed just seven second-chance points on all those extra looks.

"To beat them, you've got to make some shots," he said. "We just didn't make enough shots today, and I thought we had some pretty good ones. They also altered some shots. Their length is pretty imposing."

Maryland won the only regular-season meeting 86-58 on Jan. 19. The teams were tied at halftime in that one and Wake Forest trailed just 50-47 before Maryland ran off eight straight points then followed with a 19-2 spurt that blew the game open.

This time, Wake Forest didn't let Maryland speed completely out of sight, scrapping the entire way and getting within seven with about 4 minutes left. And tempers flared a bit after a couple of hard fouls that had bodies crashing to the court.

At one point, with official Dee Kantner stepping between the jawing teams, Douglas pointed over Kantner's shoulder into the faces of the Terps players and received a technical foul with 5:37 left.

Later, a frustrated Secily Ray pulled off her hairband as she walked to the Wake Forest bench after fouling out and flung it to the floor.

The biggest problem for Maryland was its 22 turnovers, which led to 19 points for the Demon Deacons to help offset some of their shooting woes. It just wasn't enough to keep Wake Forest's tournament run going.

"This is the first time we've been this far," senior Brooke Thomas said. "Obviously we wanted to win this game, but we're going to take it as a learning experience and we still have games to play. We're just looking to continue on."