Young Terps shake Tech hex, 91-88

January 05, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- The Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season got off to a rousing and shocking start last night, as the University of Maryland bucked both history and the odds to upset 12th-ranked Georgia Tech, 91-88, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

It was the first victory by a Terrapins team at "The Thrillerdome" in 13 years, and their first here over a Bobby Cremins-coached team. They built a 15-point lead in the first six minutes, led by 17 at halftime and 18 with a little more than 11 minutes remaining. Then they held on for dear life.

"From where we've been, obviously that's a big win," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who beat Cremins for only the second time in nine games since coming back to College Park five years ago. "This is a great win for our program."

Behind the early hot shooting of sophomore guards Duane Simpkins and Johnny Rhodes, and the continued rise to stardom of freshman center Joe Smith, the Terps beat Georgia Tech (9-2, 0-1) for the first time in three years. Smith scored 28, the most ever by a Maryland freshman in an ACC game, to go along with 13 rebounds, and Simpkins and Rhodes each had 18. James Forrest led Tech with a career-high 36.

Maryland withstood a 14-0 run by the Yellow Jackets midway through the second half, and managed to survive despite the fact that Smith and fellow freshman Keith Booth were both in foul trouble. Booth picked up his fourth with 10:46 to go, and Smith got called for his fourth with 7:23 remaining. Neither fouled out, and both made big plays down the stretch.

"Joe Smith is an outstanding player, we couldn't stop him," said Cremins, whose team's run of successful second-half comebacks this season finally ran out. "He really hurt us inside. We wanted to put in one of our big guys, but we were behind and kept trying to come back."

Said Forrest, who hit 16 of 23 shots to go along with 12 rebounds: "We tried to fight out of it. We've been digging ourselves a lot of holes the last three years. I told the guys, 'You can't play like that against a team with that kind of talent,' but they didn't listen."

Not that Maryland didn't give Georgia Tech some chances. After the Terps stretched their lead back to seven, 87-80, Forrest cut it to five. Rhodes then tried going long, but the pass resulted in one of Maryland's 24 turnovers and Forrest scored again to cut it back to three, 87-84, with 11 seconds left.

After Exree Hipp made both ends of a one-and-one to make it five with eight seconds left, the sophomore forward sent Williams into apoplexy by fouling Drew Barry with six seconds to go. After Barry made the first free throw and purposely missed the second, Hipp quickly redeemed himself by getting the rebound and hitting another pair of free throws.

Asked what he was thinking as he saw his team's big lead slipping away, Williams said, "You don't think about winning or losing. You're trying to get ready for the next situation."

Maryland finally secured its second victory over a Top 25 team this season when Hipp was fouled again and made another pair of free throws with three seconds to go. Martice Moore hit a three-point shot at the buzzer, the eighth in a school-record 33 three-pointers the Yellow Jackets attempted last night.

"We made a great effort, but obviously it came up short," said Cremins, whose team now plays against third-ranked Duke, No. 2 North Carolina and No. 11 Louisville in one week starting Saturday. "Maryland's a very good team, and you can see the talent that they have recruited has started to develop."

Smith has played this way all season, but Simpkins is just starting to show the promise he demonstrated as a high school All-American at DeMatha. Last night's point total matched his career high set last week during a 14-point loss against Massachusetts. Simpkins also had six assists, six rebounds and a team-high seven turnovers.

"I've been working hard on my shooting," said Simpkins, who hit six of eight last night, five of six on threes, and made all five of his attempts in a 15-point first half. "It's starting to pay off. To win like this here against a ranked team is going to give us a lot of confidence."

Truth is, many of the young Terps were oblivious to the tradition of blowing leads to or getting blown out by Georgia Tech on its home court. That lack of knowledge, and a decided abundance of confidence, certainly showed last night.

"I didn't know about the streak until [former Maryland guard and current radio analyst] Greg Manning told me before the game," said Smith. "I told him that we were going to end the streak."

After winning its first ACC opener in four years and its first road opener in the league since beating North Carolina State at Reynolds Coliseum a decade ago, Maryland will now come back home to get ready for Saturday's game against the defending national champion Tar Heels.

"People have told our guys they're a good young team," said Williams. "Hopefully by the end of the year, they'll be saying we have a good team."

Last night was a significant step. A shocking one, too.

NOTES: The Terps hit nine of 14 threes, including four of five by Rhodes. . . . Maryland out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets 52-39. . . . Booth had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

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