LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- You didn't think they were going undefeated this year, did you?
The bubble burst on a perfect season for the University of Maryland basketball team. But the Terrapins, as has been their habit under Gary Williams, didn't go gently into the night. After trailing Louisville by 19 points with 13 minutes left in the game, Maryland cut its deficit twice to seven down the stretch before succumbing to the Cardinals, 96-79, last night at noisy Freedom Hall.
The defeat prevented the Terps (5-1) from matching their best start in 10 years. Center Cornelius Holden led Louisville (3-0) with 23 points, and Walt Williams scored 22 for the Terps.
"When you're down 19, you have to do everything right, and we didn't," said Gary Williams. "It's been nice the last five games, everyone saying how hard we've played, but you've got to execute, and we missed a couple of makable shots."
After Walt Williams brought Maryland back from a 69-50 deficit to 81-73 on a three-point play with 4 minutes, 37 seconds to go, Evers Burns (19 points, 11 rebounds) made a free throw to trim Louisville's lead to seven. The crowd of 19,357 got anxious.
But senior guard Everick Sullivan steadied the young Cardinals momentarily by throwing down a thunderous dunk over Burns. The Terps didn't budge, and after falling behind 84-74, cut the deficit to seven again on a three-point shot by freshman guard Wayne Bristol with 2:32 to go.
"There was definitely enough time to come back," said Walt Williams, who had nine rebounds, eight assists and eight of Maryland's 21 turnovers. "We made a couple of mental mistakes and they capitalized on them."
When Vince Broadnax missed a couple of 5-footers -- the normally efficient senior forward suffered through an 0-for-7, one-point, two-rebound nightmare -- the rout was back on. It was capped off by Cardinals reserve Jason McLendon's dunk with seven seconds to play.
In the end, Louisville was too quick and athletic for the Terps. All five starters scored in double figures. Sophomore forwards Greg Minor and Dwayne Morton, as well as freshman point guard Keith LeGree, each scored 14, and Sullivan added 12.
"We beat a good basketball team," said Louisville coach Denny Crum. "We played pretty hard. I think there are some things that we'd like to take back and I'm sure they feel the same way. We did enough things right and enough things well to come out on top."
What the Cardinals did surprisingly well, especially in the first half, was shoot from the outside. Never known for its three-point prowess, Louisville made its first three from beyond the line and seven of 12 in the first half. The Cardinals finished eight of 14 from three-point range overall.
Though the Cardinals cooled off after a torrid first half -- Louisville hit 11 of its first 13 shots, and 18 of 30 to build a 50-40 lead -- Maryland never heated up. The Terps, who had not shot consistently well despite their 5-0 start, were 29 of 71 overall, three of 15 from three-point range.
"We knew they were going to make a run, but we knew that their outside shooting was suspect," said Sullivan. "We hoped they shot it from the outside, and they did."
Although Maryland got solid efforts from Williams, Burns and Garfield Smith, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, Broadnax and Kevin McLinton (eight points, seven rebounds, five assists) struggled offensively. Bristol provided a spark with nine points in 10 minutes, but he was the only one who contributed off the bench.
The Terps will take an 10-day break for final exams before playing Towson State Dec. 21, but they learned a few things here last night.
"We were 5-0 playing a couple of tough teams," said Walt Williams. "We learned that we can be beaten if we don't come out ready to play. This is a reality check. We have to learn that we have to be ready, whoever we're playing, wherever we play them."