Terps stand up to be counted, beat Louisville Freshmen come through, 72-67

December 29, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland basketbal team made a statement last night, not only to Louisville, but also to the rest of the country.

The Terps are a little ahead of schedule.

After losing senior point guard Kevin McLinton to fouls for most of the second half, and eventually for good with 3:25 to go, a lineup that included three freshmen didn't lose its composure despite losing much of its lead.

Ahead by 14 with a little more than five minutes left, the Terps held on for a heart-pounding, 72-67 victory over the Cardinals before a raucous sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House.

"The only problem is that it's December, and you can't get too carried away with this," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "But this is pretty good. I think we can work hard off this game. It shows we have the potential to be a pretty good team."

Still, Williams knew that this victory was one of the most significant since he returned to his alma mater in 1989. It was the sixth straight victory for Maryland (7-1), the longest winning streak under Williams.

Not only did Maryland make a statement as a team, but its freshmen also made one of their own. Exree Hipp and Johnny Rhodes led the Terps with 15 points apiece, and Duane Simpkins made some big plays in McLinton's place down the stretch.

"It was something to see Exree Hipp and Johnny Rhodes do the same things against Louisville that they've done in some of our other games," said Williams. "I'm sure for them it was important to get that good game in against a quality team. What Duane did was also big. He did a tremendous job."

After a close first half in which both teams suffered long shooting droughts, it seemed as if Louisville (2-4) was about to pull away early in the second half. A dunk by Dwayne Morton on the opening possession gave the Cardinals a 38-31 lead.

But Hipp and Rhodes, as well as a rejuvenated Evers Burns, led Maryland back on a 22-10 run that gave the Terps a 53-48 lead with 12:55 to go. Hipp penetrated inside for dunks and layups and Rhodes made three of his four three-pointers during the stretch.

"I knew my shot wasn't falling, so my job was to get the rebounds and find the guys who were hitting," said Burns, who reclaimed the boards in the second half and finished with a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with 14 points. "Those guys aren't freshmen anymore. Not after tonight."

When McLinton went to the bench with four fouls with 11:53 to go, Maryland still was leading 55-50. It would grow to 70-56 on a three-point shot by Rhodes with 5:21 to go. It was down to 70-60 when McLinton returned with 4:02 left.

Trying to make a steal on an inbounds pass, McLinton fouled out 37 seconds later. It left Burns and senior center Chris Kerwin with the three freshmen. After a layup by Kerwin with 2:47 to go put Maryland ahead 72-63, the lead kept shrinking. And Williams kept watching the clock.

"I thought we could still win the game, but that was extreme pressure [for the freshmen]," he said. "I knew even after Johnny missed a couple of free throws that we could still win it."

With 42.7 seconds to play, shortly after Hipp's long arms rescued a potential turnover, Rhodes was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Morton then hit an off-balance 18-footer, cutting the Maryland lead to 72-67.

Rhodes was fouled again, this time with 21.2 seconds to go. He missed again, and Louisville had another chance. But Greg Minor, who had burned the Terps for 17 of his game-high 22 in the first half before disappearing for most of the second half, missed a three-point shot. The ball was tipped away before Burns retrieved the rebound. He ran up the court and ran out the clock.

"Those 40 seconds flew by," said Rhodes, who also had five assists and four rebounds. "I was just happy to see Evers come down with the ball."

The final buzzer set off a joyful, though brief, celebration by the Maryland players. It didn't match the craziness that followed last season's upset of highly ranked North Carolina, but its importance should not be underplayed.

"I don't know if it's the biggest win we've had since I've been here, but it's up there," said McLinton.

Though the win came against a team that has lost four of its first six games, Louisville was ranked No. 13 in the preseason. It was the second straight loss for the Cardinals to an Atlantic Coast Conference team -- they lost to Georgia Tech on a three-pointer at the buzzer Dec. 19 -- and kept Denny Crum stuck at 498 career victories.

"All season we can't get two or three players playing well together," said Crum, who had beaten Maryland four straight times before last night. "We just can't get over the hump. It's a matter of maturity and concentration."

It was the same for Maryland last night. The Terps, who shot 59 percent in the second half, showed maturity beyond their years. They demonstrated superb concentration despite losing one of their leaders and they won a game many believed they would not.

"I think we showed we're for real," said Hipp.

Indeed.

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