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Maryland Beats Duke 78-75 in OT for Title

April 5, 2006

BOSTON (AP) _ Overtime belongs to Maryland. So does the NCAA championship. Kristi Toliver hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to cap a 13-point comeback, then the freshman made two free throws with 35 seconds left in overtime on Tuesday night to give the Terrapins a 78-75 victory over Duke and their first NCAA women’s basketball title.

Maryland (34-4) is 6-0 in overtime games this season _ the first five on the road and the last in the championship to complete the second-largest comeback in a women’s title game. It was the first time the championship was determined in overtime since Tennessee beat Virginia in 1991.

Jessica Foley made two free throws with 18 seconds left in regulation to give Duke a 70-67 lead, then Maryland coach Brenda Frese called timeout to set up a play.

Toliver, who had 12 turnovers in the semifinal victory over North Carolina, brought the ball down and veered over to the left side before putting through the 3 with 6.1 seconds left.

Toliver said Duke’s Alison Bales was right in her face.

``And I even felt her fingertips as I was holding my follow through,″ Toliver said. ``So, she did a great job contesting. I just had a lot of confidence. And I knew I wanted to take the big shot so I just took it.″

Duke (31-4) opted not to call a timeout; Lindsey Harding brought the ball down the court and put up a desperation leaner from the right baseline that went off the rim.

After that, the usually frenetic Frese just let her players take over.

``I didn’t have to say a word,″ Frese said. ``They just know that overtime is their time.″

Duke took a 75-74 lead before Toliver sank two free throws to put Maryland ahead for good. Marissa Coleman, who bounced back from Frese’s furious first-half tongue-lashing to finish with 10 points and 14 rebounds, hit the last two free throws for Maryland with 13.4 seconds left.

Foley was forced to take a well-covered, off-balance 3 at the buzzer that barely nicked the rim.

Toliver had 16 points, four assists and just three turnovers in the title game. Laura Harper and Shay Doron also scored 16 for the Terrapins, who were charter members of the Final Four 25 years ago but struggled before Frese took over the program in 2002.

All game long, Frese was walking the sideline and clapping, screaming out plays and in one case walking onto the court to rip into Coleman for the first 30 seconds of a two-minute timeout.

Coleman got the message. After scoring just two points in the first half, the 6-foot-1 freshman battled against the 6-foot-7 Bales too keep Duke from using its inside edge to counter Maryland’s speed. And that’s when Toliver, who had to give up the ball-handling against the Tar Heels, took over.

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