Williams gets more than he bargained for in Arena game No. 11 Oklahoma scares Terps coach

January 07, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Gary Williams was still thinking about Georgia Tech yesterday, but the University of Maryland basketball coach was talking up Oklahoma and his team's game against the 11th-ranked Sooners on Jan. 19 at the Baltimore Arena.

"When I scheduled it, I didn't know they were going to be that good," Williams said during a noon news conference at the Arena. "This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for them. If anyone watched the Duke game, it was a nightmare."

Williams was referring to Monday night's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Sooners staged a heroic comeback from a 20-point, second-half deficit, and forced the top-ranked Blue Devils into overtime before losing, 88-84.

"I didn't sleep much after that game, but I didn't sleep much after our game against Georgia Tech," said Williams, who had two hours' sleep after a disappointing, 85-75 loss to No. 10 Georgia Tech in Tuesday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Cole Field House.

The appearance by the Terps marks Maryland's first visit to Baltimore in five years, since winning the MCI Harbor Classic to kick off the 1987-88 season. That season was the last time Maryland made the NCAA tournament.

It's an important event on several levels for Maryland's basketball program: another chance at a nationally ranked team, a good recruiting tool in attracting the city's top high school players and another opportunity for Baltimore-area alumni to go to a game.

"We want to make it a great homecoming for us," said Williams, whose Terps play Saturday at North Carolina. "It's not just going to be a basketball game. It's a tremendous event for the entire community. When I got the job, I felt the only way to get things done was to get the whole state involved. This game is a real step in that direction."

Aside from the game against the Sooners -- Maryland's only non-conference game the rest of the season -- there also will be a halftime free-throw shooting contest between three local sportscasters and a raffle. Both the free-throw shooting contest and the raffle will benefit the University of Maryland Cancer Center.

An autographed bat belonging to Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr., an autographed glove belonging to Minnesota Twins star Kirby Puckett and a basketball signed by members of this year's Maryland team will be raffled off. Event organizers are hoping to raise between $15,000 and $20,000.

"Our interest is to make this an annual event with the University of Maryland," said Dario Savarese, vice president of marketing for Sports Productions Inc., the Winchester, Va.-based company promoting the event. "We want to make it a family event."

Though a contract has been signed for this year only, university officials have similar interests. Interestingly, it comes at a time when there are no plans of returning to Baltimore for a Maryland football game.

"I don't think there's a conflict at all," said associate athletic director Jeff Gray. "One of the obvious things is that alumni and friends of the university spent $20 million renovating our football stadium.

"In football, you have a smaller schedule. To take 20 percent [of the home schedule] to a different place is difficult. This is a test for us. If we're successful with the basketball game, we'd like to do it on a regular basis."

This also marks the return of major conference college basketball to the Arena. The Arena will be the site for the first- vTC and second-round games in the 1994-95 NCAA tournament. According to Savarese, there are about 3,000 tickets remaining for the Maryland-Oklahoma game.

"If it's a sellout, the crowd could be a sixth man for Maryland," he said.

Considering what happened Monday night in Durham, and Tuesday night in College Park, the Terps could use the help.

NOTES: Williams said that the three players who were injured in Tuesday night's game against Georgia Tech would be available to play Saturday against the sixth-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Senior forward Evers Burns suffered a contusion in his lower back, senior guard Kevin McLinton a sprained right wrist and freshman guard Johnny Rhodes sustained a slightly pulled groin muscle.

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