Final thoughts from Westwood

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- On paper, No. 3 Maryland had the experience to come in and blow away unranked UCLA with their young roster.

Instead, Maryland squeaked away with a 79-75 win during a physical game and it was UCLA's youth led by the experience of a sole senior that stole the show and almost the game.

"This game definitely teaches us that we have stuff to work on, but at the same time, we can compete with anyone in the country when we bring our 'A' game and play together," said UCLA's Lindsay Pluimer.

The first half Maryland showed their experience by staying in control of the game and leading by as many as 13 points with 5:47 left in the half. Yet UCLA never gave up and went into halftime only seven points behind.

"We've been emphasizing defense this whole year," said UCLA coach Kathy Olivier. I thought we did a great job at the end of the first half and really picked up our defense and pressure which created some easy shots for us."

Second half action saw UCLA playing beyond their years and even enjoyed a 16-point lead with 6:47 left in the game.

"In the second half I thought we did a great job early, but in the stretch, their experienced showed." said Olivier.

However, it was the experience of having faced a similar situation that enabled Maryland to chip away and ultimately take the lead.

"In the National Championship game we had to come back from being down by double-digits with 10 minutes left in the game," said Maryland's Marissa Coleman. "I think this shows the character of this team this season and that we worked extremely hard for in the off-season."

With 1:07 left in the game, Maryland's Kristi Toliver stayed calm, cool and collected and hit the shot that silenced a rowdy UCLA crowd in the home where legends in men's college basketball have been made.

"It felt good," said Toliver. "We're just trying to balance the score and get back on the winning side."

Yet it was the experience of Maryland bolstered by out-rebounding 42-33, out-shooting trom the field with a 52.7% compared to 43.7% and out-shooting from the three-point arch 9-5 that gave Maryland the lift they needed to survive and hold onto their ranking for another game.

"It means everything," said Park. "This is a special group of players who have been through a lot of battles and have a lot of experience because of it. To have the players on the court who really believed that we had a great opportunity to come back and execute it beautifully in the last six minutes of the game.

All of UCLA's players who came off the bench scored, with Pluimer leading the way with 17 points followed by Doreena Campbell who came through with 15 points of her own.

"As much as I know we are young, I think we have a great leader," said Olivier. "Pluimer has been extremely patient, has an unbelievable amount of respect and I think that Doreena has shown that she doesn't play like a freshman whatsoever. She takes great shots, takes care of the basketball."

Leading all scorers for Maryland was Toliver with her 22 points. Close behind her was Coleman with the only double-double of the day with her 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"This was another wonderful effort by our kids," said acting Maryland coach Daron Park. "Our character definitely was tested, our composure was tested and everything we talked about we experienced in the second half. Just the way this team battled back and understood what needed to be done to get back in the game and then what needed to be done to win the game says so much about the kind of players and people we have. It was a great win against a very good team on a historic court."

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