Terps shackle Sooners, 89-78 Zone defense helps limit No. 1 scorers in Baltimore return

January 20, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

One of the traits of Gary Williams' teams at the University o Maryland has been their ability to play their best basketball when their backs are up against the wall.

Never had the Terrapins been dealing with as much adversity on the court as they were coming into last night's game against 12th-ranked Oklahoma at the Baltimore Arena. And never has Maryland played as well under such conditions.

After being thoroughly outplayed in their first four Atlantic Coast Conference games, the Terps played their best game of the season and shocked the Sooners, 89-78. It was, perhaps, the most timely victory in Williams' four years and one of the most surprising.

"You lose four in a row, there's a lot of pressure," said Williams. "There was a lot of pressure to get this one. I didn't want to come up here and play poorly. This was a step we wanted to take."

Not only did the victory break a four-game losing streak for Maryland (9-5), but it came against the nation's No. 1 scoring team. By switching back and forth between a 1-3-1 zone and their usual man-to-man defense, the Terps held a team averaging 97 points to its second-lowest total of the season.

Said Maryland senior Evers Burns: "We weren't sure about our team coming into this game. Maryland hadn't played in Baltimore in five years. It was our plan to let everything hang out and leave everything on the court. Nobody expected us to win this game, so we had nothing to lose."

It showed. All five starters scored in double figures for Maryland. Burns, playing his first college game in his hometown, led the Terps with 22 points. Senior guard Kevin McLinton scored 20, and senior center Chris Kerwin finished with a career high of 13 points, along with nine rebounds.

Jeff Webster led Oklahoma (12-4) with 20.

"We had no spark offensively," said Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs, whose team fell behind at halftime, 36-31, and never caught up. "Maryland was ready to play tonight. Maryland is a much better team than they have been credited for. They played smarter than we did on offense and that had something to do with our low shooting percentage."

The Sooners were a dismal 22 of 63 from the field, four of 20 from three-point range. The fact that they only hoisted 20 three-pointers was a credit to Maryland's defense, which extended Oklahoma's guards well beyond the three-point line.

"Coach Williams told us to put a hand in their face because they didn't like to shoot off the drive," said McLinton, who held Terry Evans to 14 points on three-of-14 shooting, including two of 12 on three-pointers. "A lot of the credit has to go to him for the way he prepared us."

Said Williams: "We practiced really well this week. We had real intense practices and we carried that into the game tonight. Evers did a great job of handling the pressure [of playing at home] tonight. Both he and Chris Kerwin got beat up a little in the ACC, and they did a great job tonight."

It was a pretty physical game that was nearly dragged to a stop by 59 fouls and 81 free throws. Oklahoma made 30 of 39 from the foul line, but was outscored there by the Terps, who hit 35 of 52. Kerwin fouled out for Maryland, and four others had four fouls each.

Asked about the officiating, Tubbs smiled and said, "I can't wait to play them in Norman."

Included among Maryland's free throws was a technical on Tubbs, who spent much of the night riding the all-ACC officiating crew. It came during a 14-4 run that helped the Terps build their lead to 73-60 with 5:42 to go.

The lead grew to 15 for the second time during the game, 77-62, before the Sooners made things nervous for Maryland and the crowd of 12,313 by cutting their deficit back to eight, 82-74, with a little under two minutes left.

It was as close as Oklahoma would get, and a pair of free throws by freshman guard Duane Simpkins with 34 seconds remaining put the lead at 12 and silenced the Sooners for good.

"I don't think we took them lightly," said Tubbs, whose players went straight for the team bus without changing out of their uniforms. "We played a team that had more of a cause than we did."

Said Williams: "We showed great pride tonight. Nobody likes to be embarrassed and we had been embarrassed in a couple of those losses. We were dedicated to go after the ball, and we showed great character. Any time you beat a nationally ranked team, it gives you national exposure. It was a great win for the conference as well. It shows the ACC is competitive from top to bottom."

The victory couldn't have come at a more opportune time for Maryland, which plays its next two games on the road against North Carolina State and Clemson, the only other teams without an ACC victory this season.

Not only was it Maryland's best performance since a win over Louisville last month at Cole Field House, but its highly touted freshman class put together its best overall game since then. Johnny Rhodes finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Exree Hipp had 12 points, four assists and three rebounds and Simpkins had five points and three assists while playing for the foul-plagued starters.

"It was a pretty good effort from everybody," said Kerwin, who might have played his best game ever at Maryland. "We just played as a team. That's something we haven't been doing."

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