(Photo Credit: Bob Child, Associated Press)
We’re big on nick-naming in our house. It’s one of the few things the moms and I have in common with George W. Bush. Fans of Roxie's World know, for example, that I call my moms “Moose” and “Goose” as a tribute to their different styles of parenting, while I respond to everything from “Roxie-roo” and “Rox-machine” to “Pet-izon” and “Pook-a-loe.”
So it should come as no surprise that in our basketball-obsessed household, Maryland forward Marissa Coleman is known fondly as “Shoulders.” Moose gave her that name because Marissa strategically arranges the top of her basketball uniform to assure maximum exposure of two of her most prized assets. They are prized, Moose says, because shoulders are an essential component of Marissa’s success as a shooter, rebounder, and shot-blocker. They are also, according to Moose (who has a fine aesthetic appreciation for the female form), easy on the eyes. Marissa in motion is a thing of fierce beauty, and her powerful shoulders are key to both the fierceness and the beauty. She is one of the scrappiest players in women’s college basketball, but no matter how hard she battles for the ball, nothing ever messes up the careful arrangement of the over-the-shoulder part of “Shoulders’” uniform.
Unfortunately for Marissa and the other Lady Terps, that was the only part of their game last night that wasn’t messed up, as they sought to defend their title as national champions in the second round of the NCAA tournament against the relentless Rebels of Ole Miss. The Terps went down hard, trailing by as much as 23 points to a team they had beaten by 31 points in a November tournament in the Bahamas. Brilliant defense wreaked havoc on the Terps’ normally efficient passing, making it hard to get the ball underneath the basket to Crystal Langhorne and resulting in an astonishing 29 turnovers (which led to an equally astonishing 42 points for the kleptomaniacal Rebels). The Terps rallied late in the second half, as Shoulders and Kristi Toliver combined to score 16 of the team’s last 20 points and close the deficit to 6 with 2:24 left in the game, but it was too little too late. The Rebels hit 20 of 22 free throws in the second half to keep the Terps at bay. Senior Shay Doron and Shoulders both fouled out in the last couple of minutes, and a season that began with visions of a repeat of last year’s glorious triumph came to a crashing, ignominious halt. (Maryland joins Purdue’s 2000 team and Notre Dame’s 2002 team in being defending national champions ousted in the second round of the tournament. Only Old Dominion did worse, by not making the tournament in 1986 after winning the championship in 1985.)
The final score was 89-78. For gory details on the game, see Milton Kent’s wonderful story in The Baltimore Sun. For a glimpse of Coach Brenda Frese’s ferocious attempt to rally her troops during a first half timeout, click on ESPN’s video re-cap.
The moms and I just hate it when March Madness turns too quickly to March Sadness, as it did this season for both the Lady and the non-Lady Terps. (The men also lost in the second round to an incredibly disciplined Butler team.) Our hearts went out to Coach B. and all the tearful Terps on the sidelines last night who seemed stunned by the scale of their defeat and by their inability to adjust to Ole Miss’s stifling defense. Our sense off and on throughout this nonetheless impressive season was that the still young and already accomplished team was having a difficult time managing the expectations generated by that beautiful crystal trophy they brought back to the Comcast Center after last year’s amazing run through the tournament. The hardware in their heads wasn’t ready for the hardware in the hallway and all the pressure that went with it. In clutch moments, as Roxie’s World has observed before, you could see the self-doubt in their eyes, the anxiety in their passes. Can I really do this, they seemed to be wondering? Do I really deserve this? Shouldn’t that glittering jewel of a trophy be in Durham or Chapel Hill rather than College Park?
To which Roxie’s World replies: HELL NO! Our hearts are heavy for you today, but we stand behind the sentiments lovingly painted on the signs my moms held aloft all season in the Comcast Center, even when the grouches behind us threatened to turn us in to the big meanies in the yellow jackets:
- FEAR THE BRENDA
- TERP WOMEN RULE
And, oh, yeah, one more thing: WE CAN’T WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR. We’ll miss you, Shay, but it’s time to FEAR THE JUNIORS, BABY.
Update: The post-mortems on the Terps' disappointing loss are rolling in. They're painful to read, but we hope the folks in the Comcast Center will accept them as a necessary bit of tough love that might be useful to contemplate during the longer-than-expected offseason. David Steele has a particularly hard-hitting piece on Coach B's surprising decision to bench Kristi Toliver and start newcomer Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood at point guard in the NCAA tournament. Milton Kent has a good day-two piece that has thoughtful comments from Shoulders and Coach B, but which also suggests Kristi Toliver was blind-sided by the decision not to start her in the tournament. Please, basketball goddesses, spare us the spectacle of recriminations and in-fighting among our beautiful turtles! The Sun also has a nice sidebar that evaluates all the Lady Terps this season. Highest marks, we're pleased to report, go to Shoulders, who is judged to be "on the verge of superstardom." We give that judgment Five Paws Up and an enthusiastic Roxie's World Seal of Approval. Hold your shoulders high, Marissa. You are a Mighty Woman of Maryland!