Maryland shackles Sooners Zone defense spurs 89-78 win

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

One of the consistent traits of Gary Williams' team at the University of Maryland has been the ability to play its best when its back was up against the wall.

Never had the Terrapins been under 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 RTC surprising.

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. They held a team averaging 97 points a game to its second-lowest total of the season by stopping Oklahoma's three-point shooters with a zone.

In their first appearance at the Arena in more than five years, Maryland played smart and tough from the beginning and never wavered despite foul problems to several starters. Led by senior forward Evers Burns, who had 22, and senior guard Kevin McLinton, who had 20, the Terps jumped ahead early and hung on after a 15-point lead with a little under two minutes to play was cut to eight, 82-74.

With a chance to cut it close, the Sooners missed two shots from close range. McLinton got the rebound, and was fouled. He made both free throws and following a miss by Oklahoma, Burns scored on a drive for the Terps. Leading 86-76 with 34.6 seconds left, Duane Simpkins calmed a somewhat nervous crowd by hitting two free throws.

After leading by as many as 14, 59-45, with 12:11 to go, Maryland saw its big lead cut in half, to 60-53 a little less than two minutes later. Playing without starting guards McLinton and Johnny Rhodes, both of whom were on the bench with four fouls, the Terps built their lead back to 11, 67-56, on a baseline jumper by Burns with 7:53 left.

It was up to 13, 71-58, on a layup by Exree Hipp after a nice feed by Chris Kerwin with 6:23 to play. After a couple of misses, a loose ball out of bounds was called in Maryland's favor. Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs, who had been riding the officials all evening, was called for a technical with 5:32 to go. McLinton hit both free throws for a 73-60 lead. The lead would grow to 75-60, and it was too late for an Oklahoma comeback.

Maryland played its best first half in nearly a month, maybe its best of the season considering the competition. Mostly, it was due to aggressive defense. But in turn, it helped the Terps offensively.

Coming out in an uncharacteristic, but effective, 1-3-1 zone, Maryland slowed down the Sooners' explosive offense by taking away their three-point shots and limiting Oklahoma to one shot per possession.

The Terps also were unperturbed by Oklahoma's pressure defense, and scored a number of easy baskets -- including a breakaway dunk by Exree Hipp -- as a result, taking a 13-10 lead.

What was even more surprising, especially the way they have played recently, is that the Terps hung in after Oklahoma reclaimed the lead at 21-20. Maryland went on an 8-0 run and, after a three-pointer by Angelo Hamilton cut it back to four, sandwiched two inside baskets around a free throw by Bryan Sallier.

After a 15-footer by Burns gave the Terps a 34-27 lead with 2:01 left in the half, Oklahoma cut it back to four, on a rebound follow by Jeff Webster and a free throw by Hamilton.

Leading by five at halftime, 36-31, Maryland continued to play well into the second half. Its first three-pointer of the game, by Rhodes, gave the Terps a 43-37 lead. After a steal by Burns, a drive by Kerwin gave Maryland its biggest lead at eight.

It seemed as if the Sooners were going to make their move when Webster scored on a foul line jumper and center Kenneth Conley hit a turnaround from the baseline. But the Terps built their lead back to eight, 51-43, on a block and layup by Rhodes with 14:25 to go.

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