Terps rally twice but fall short, 88-74 Virginia hangs on in ACC finale

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

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The University of Maryland basketball team showed again yesterday how well it plays from behind. The Terrapins also showed that they haven't quite perfected the art of comebacks.

In an 88-74 loss to Virginia at University Hall, Maryland chopped a 20-point deficit early in the second half to 10 with 12 minutes left and an 18-point deficit later on to six with a little over two minutes left.

But the Terps could get no closer and lost for the 12th time in the past 13 games, ending their worst regular season in five years. Maryland (11-15, 2-14) finished tied for last place with North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"It's been tough during the ACC season for us," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "But I respected our players for what they did in the second half. It was good to see them play hard, like they thought they could win. As a coach, I got excited because I thought we were going to win the game."

As heartened as he was by his team's second-half comeback, which was fueled mostly by the play of its freshmen, Williams was nearly apoplectic about Maryland's performance for the first 25 minutes.

Missing 25 of their first 36 shots, the Terps fell behind 50-30 with 15:32 left in the game.

"Terrible," said senior guard Kevin McLinton.

Things got interesting when Johnny Rhodes hit a three-pointer to cut Virginia's 71-53 lead to 79-73 with 2:02 to play.

Trailing later 81-74, following a dunk by Virginia's Junior Burrough and one of two free throws by Maryland freshman Duane Simpkins with 1:38 to go, the Terps had a chance when McLinton stole an inbounds pass and drove to the basket. He was bumped by Ted Jeffries, but no foul was called.

"I definitely was pushed," said McLinton. "Sometimes the refs don't make those calls. That's a key situation. If I go to the line, it's a four-point game [actually five]. It sort of sums up our season. That close -- but just so far."

What enabled Maryland to climb back into the game was the shooting of Rhodes, who made nine of 14 shots (five of eight threes) for a game-high 23 points; also, the inside play of freshman forward Mario Lucas, who had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in 21 minutes off the bench.

What was also encouraging was the steady play of freshman point guard Simpkins. On the bench for most of the ACC season, Simpkins had five points, five assists, two blocked shots and one steal in 19 minutes. While much of a Maryland's run came with McLinton and senior forward Evers Burns on the court -- they eventually fouled out -- it was the freshmen who made yesterday's loss more palatable.

"That's a look at the future," said Lucas. "Duane played pretty well getting some steals and penetrated. Johnny was shooting lights out. That shows what he should have been doing all year -- taking over the game. That's a sign of what kind of team we're going to be next year."

Said Williams: "That was great to see. I think that shows the young guys what happens when they play hard. We're going to win games like this in the next few years."

Virginia (18-8, 9-7), which broke a three-game ACC losing streak and clinched fifth place in the league, aided Maryland's comeback. Similar to what they did in a two-point win at Cole Field House last month, the Cavaliers made 11 of 22 free throws in the second half and were 19 of 36 overall.

"This basketball team has been intent on not doing anything the easy way," said Virginia coach Jeff Jones.

So are the Terps, who will play N.C. State in Thursday night's preliminary game of the ACC tournament. It will mark the second straight appearance for Maryland in the play-in game and, barring an unexpected run in the postseason, it is the first time that Williams has endured back-to-back losing seasons as a head coach.

But he remains undaunted.

"I'm not disappointed because we played 12 of 16 [ACC] games against ranked teams," said Williams. "You put anybody at our level and they wouldn't do much better. I'll go play in another conference and see how we do."

NOTES: McLinton scored 13 points and became the 27th player in Maryland history to go over 1,000 points. He has 1,012. . . . Burns had 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. . . . The Cavaliers will play Wake Forest in the opening game of the opening round Friday at noon.

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