Terps come up short at end, fall to Virginia, 70-68

February 05, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- This was a game the Maryland basketball team needed to win. This was a game the Terrapins had a chance to win. In fact, they had three opportunities to beat Virginia last night in the final, frantic moments at Cole Field House.

But Maryland missed two makeable shots and one prayer in the last 15 seconds around some poor free-throw shooting by the No. 24 Cavaliers and lost, 70-68, before a disappointed sellout crowd of 14,500. The loss, the third straight for the Terps, kept Maryland tied for last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Two of the shots were by near-hero Kevin McLinton, who had a pull-up jumper from the foul line blocked by Cory Alexander with 15 seconds left and later watched a desperation half-court heave at the buzzer bounce high off the backboard. In between, freshman forward Exree Hipp missed a 17-footer with six seconds to go.

"I thought I played pretty well, but being the kind of person who is critical about his own performance, I'm going to think about that shot," said McLinton, who led a number of rousing, but ill-fated Maryland comebacks to finish with 25 points and 11 rebounds. "He made a tremendous play. I made a bad decision."

Alexander was not only the defensive hero, but also the offensive hero. Emerging from a recent slump during which he made only 21 of 63 shots, Alexander used hot shooting to help the Cavaliers build a 12-point lead midway through the first half. He scored 16 in the first 10 minutes and scored a game-high 27 on 11 of 15 from the field, including five of six from three-point range.

"He definitely was lighting us up,"Alexander said of McLinton. "When the game was on the line and the adrenalin was flowing, I just came up with the big play."

It was not the only big play the Cavaliers made. Reserve guard Doug Smith's three-point shot with 1:31 remaining broke a 66-66 tie and made the Terps try to come back once more. But Maryland, which had taken its only lead of the game, 65- 64, on a three-pointer by McLinton with 3:26 to go, couldn't pull it out.

The Cavaliers left the door open a couple of times in the closing seconds. After McLinton's shot was blocked with the Terps trailing 69-68, Alexander missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12.9 seconds to go. After Hipp missed, Virginia forward Junior Burrough missed the second of two free throws with 4.1 seconds left.

"I think we played through a point there early where we were not very confident of our ability," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team cut the 12-point deficit to three by halftime. "But once we got through that, I thought the competitiveness was there. Even though we didn't shoot well the rest of the game, we had an opportunity to get over the top. We missed a couple of shots, they hit a couple of big ones -- obviously."

The loss was by far the toughest for Maryland (10-8, 1-7) in the ACC this season, coming against a team mired in its own slump and begging to be beaten for the fifth time in its last six games. The victory broke a two-game losing streak for the Cavaliers (13-4, 5-3) and put them right back in the hunt in the suddenly wide-open ACC race.

"This was a big win for us," said Virginia coach Jeff Jones. "We needed it and we kind of hung on. We didn't always do things really well, but we made enough plays to come out on the winning side."

McLinton did, too, but he didn't get the kind of support Alexander received down the stretch. Except for its senior guard, who continues to be one of the ACC's best players, Maryland struggled. Senior forward Evers Burns finished with a season-low 11 points -- only two in the second half -- with six rebounds.

Hipp (nine points, seven rebounds) and fellow freshman Johnny Rhodes (11 points on four of 14 shooting) showed flashes, just not enough of them. Williams was pleased with the tenacity Hipp showed, and the shot he took toward the end -- "It was a good shot, it took courage," the coach said -- but the freshman forward wasn't satisfied.

"I took the shot they gave me," said Hipp. "It doesn't make me feel good. It would have made me feel better if I had made it."

It would have made Williams feel better, too. After starting 0-6 in the ACC last year, the Terps eventually won five of their last 10 league games. But Maryland, which is tied with North Carolina State for last, plays at Georgia Tech (which lost at home to Clemson last night) tomorrow and is host to sixth-ranked North ++ Carolina on Tuesday.

"We intend to go from there without looking back, and we are not falling back," said Williams.

In terms of the ACC, Maryland has nowhere to go but up.

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