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Not a typical Sunday for Terps star Langhorne

April 02, 2006|By MERCEDES MAYER - Knight Ridder

FORT WORTH, Texas

There was a time when Crystal Langhorne wasn't allowed to play basketball on Sundays. That was a day for church and family time, her father said.

But that rule only applied until Langhorne's parents realized their daughter had a special gift, and it looks as if those 50-plus days of rest a year didn't set Langhorne back, after all.

Langhorne, a sophomore center/forward, will be playing today at 6 p.m. in one of the biggest games of her life as she and Maryland face top-ranked North Carolina in the first semifinal game of the women's Final Four in Boston. LSU plays Duke in the second semifinal.

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"(Basketball) wasn't too big in my family until they started to realize that I could go to college for this," Langhorne said.

Langhorne turned down Connecticut, Virginia and Florida for up-and-comer Maryland, then surprised even herself last season by earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors. She averaged 17.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game as a freshman.

Langhorne's numbers went down this regular season with the increasing talent of Maryland's young team, but the Terps' success has improved with the players' unselfishness.

Langhorne isn't complaining: "It doesn't matter if you average 30 if you're at home," she said.

It's that attitude that Maryland coach Brenda Frese appreciates the most. Langhorne has never been one for drama or being the center of attention. She has been described as level-headed and a coach's dream.

"She is the most underrated player in the country," Frese said.

Her teammates see that, too.

"Unfortunately, all people care about is scoring, so they don't see everything else that Crystal brings to the floor, whether it's defense or leadership or what not," junior guard Shay Doron said. "Her numbers might be down, what, three points or something? But she's just as dominant as she's ever been."

Langhorne has been a steady inside force for the Terrapins, who are making their first trip to the Final Four since 1989. She's shooting 69.6 percent, and averaging 24.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in four NCAA Tournament games to lift her season averages to 17.2 and 8.8.

She's learned to deal with just about every defense imaginable. Langhorne, who is left-handed, uses her quickness and slender but strong 6-foot-2 build to get around defenders.

When she's double- or triple-teamed, as she was several times against Utah in the regional final, Langhorne has learned to kick it out to one of Maryland's 3-point shooters. Her assists have increased from 38 last season to 72, and her assist-to-turnover ratio is much improved.

It has been her own determination that has made her better at everything, from layup drills with her older brothers to improving her shooting range.

"I'm just happy to be here," Langhorne said. "I love it here."

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