MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — The University of Maryland basketball team was sitting on a cloud after starting the season with two straight victories.With bright sunshine outM--side yesterday, there was a bit of a cloudburst inside the Coliseum for the Terrapins.
After overcoming large deficits on three occasions and playing without point guard Walt Williams down the stretch because of fouls, Maryland couldn't complete a spirited comeM--back from a 12-point hole in the second half and lost to West Virginia 90-85, before 11,027.
"A lot of people thought that if Walt got in foul trouble, that's the end of Maryland," said Terrapins coach Gary Williams, whose teamM--trailed. 83-74, with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining. "It was good to see us hang in there without him."
Maryland also played much of the second half without junior forward Garfield Smith, who picked up his fourth foul early in the half and also suffered a sprained ankle. But-the Terps, led by senior guard Matt Roe and sophomore guard Kevin McLinton, kept coming back.
It came down to the waning, wild seconds. After two free throws by Tracy Shelton had given West Virginia (2-0) an 88-85 lead and Maryland was out of timeouts, McLinton charged down the floor. He had two three-point options in Roe and guard Matthew "Cougar" Downing, or he could go to the basket himself.
"If he could hit Matt or Cougar, he would do it, but they spread out and denied him that pass," Gary Williams said. "There was a lot of contact. Not enough, I guess."
The Terps ended up taking five shots in about 20 seconds, all from inside, with the first and last by McLinton. Roe, the leading three-point shooter in Syracuse history before transferring to Maryland last year, never got a chance to add to his team-high 28 points.
"It looked like a Chinese fire drill out there." Roe said. "But Kevin saw the opening and went to the basket."
While Roe didn't get the ball, West Virginia's Mike Boyd did. The freshman guard took an outlet pass after a rebound scramble and sailed in for a breakaway dunk, one of several he had in scoring 23 points. Three other Mountaineers also scored in double figures.
"It was a good win for us, but I was a little disappointed because I thought we let Maryland back in the game a couple of times." said West Virginia coach Gale Catlett, whose team won for the second straight time this season and for the 14th consecutive time at home. "No dis-credit to Maryland, but we should have won a little more easily."
Using a three-quarter-court press, which forced many of Maryland's 18 turnovers, West Virginia jumped out to a 24-13 lead as its quick guards led the way. But they also are quick off the draw, and their misfires enabled Maryland to take a 31-30 lead. The Terps trailed at half-time, 43-42.
"I didn't think we were ready to play at the beginning of the game, and at the beginning of the second half," said Williams, whose team missed 10 of its first 11 shots, and 18 of its first 22 in the opening half, then started slowly against after halftime. "We have to prepare better. But this is a new experience for a lot of these kids."
Perhaps the most positive aspect for Maryland was the play of McLinton and junior center Cedric Lewis. McLinton buoyed Maryland's second-half comeback and Lewis helped the Terps with a surprising show of offense, scoring 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
After starting last season at point guard as a freshman, McLinton missed most of the year with a broken leg. But the sophomore from Silver Spring has shown in Maryland's first three game that he is fully recovered, and more than capable of backing up Walt Williams.
"Kevin's really gotten to be a better athlete at Maryland," Gary Williams said of McLinton, who scored nine of his 13 points from the free throw line. "He's become a lot stronger. As he gets confidence -- he makes his jumper in practice -- he'll start to take his shot."
Considering. that yesterday's game was Maryland's third in less than a week, the-effort - if not the result -- was encouraging. Although they shot only 35 percent, and Walt Williams finished with a season-low seven points and six turnovers, the Terrapins still were in the game.
With tomorrow's matchup against his former employer, Boston College, looming in the ACC-Big East Challenge, Gary Williams feels pretty good about his team. "I think they're playing pretty hard," he said.