Terps scuff Heels, but can't polish them off, 75-70

January 09, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- They didn't fold early, when it looked as if North Carolina was going to blow them out of sold-out Cole Field House. Nor could they hang on late, after storming back into the lead twice in the second half.

While they did not upset the nation's second-ranked team yesterday, the Maryland Terrapins in general and freshman sensation Joe Smith in particular continued to put the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, if not the country, on notice.

Despite falling behind by 12 in the first five minutes, and by 11 with just more than four minutes left in the first half, the Terps were back in the game by halftime and stayed there until the final minute before succumbing to the Tar Heels, 75-70.

Smith outplayed All-American Eric Montross to finish with 25 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Along with a gutty 18-point performance by sophomore point guard Duane Simpkins, the 6-9 center carried Maryland to the brink before a late dry spell stalled the Terps and helped North Carolina to its 10th straight victory.

"I thought the difference in the game was the first 10 or 12 minutes," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was disappointed in the result but not in the effort. "Carolina got away from us a little bit and when that happens against a team of that quality, you have to work really hard to get back. It takes something out of you just to get back."

The difference between the first 10 minutes and the last 30 was that Maryland (8-3, 1-1 in the ACC) got the ball inside, got to the free-throw line (19 of 28, to only seven of 13 for the Tar Heels) and got typically unflappable North Carolina (12-1, 2-0) more than a little flustered at times.

But the difference between yesterday's defeat and Tuesday's road upset of 12th-ranked Georgia Tech was Maryland's outside shooting. After making nine of 14 three-point shots in a 91-88 win over the Yellow Jackets, the Terps missed their first 14 attempts yesterday and finally made one, by Exree Hipp, with seven seconds left.

"We just didn't hit our shots," said sophomore guard Johnny Rhodes, who missed all five of his threes and 11 of 13 shots overall, but played an otherwise marvelous game to finish with 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals. "If my shot was falling, I think we would have won."

Said Montross, who scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds but was outplayed by Smith despite an advantage of three years, three inches and nearly 60 pounds, "They were getting the shots we were willing to give up. We'll give a team three-pointers all day, except maybe Kentucky, because they'll hit them. They [Maryland] didn't seem to be able to adjust."

Actually, it was North Carolina that had to adjust defenses because of Maryland's quickness, especially by Smith inside, going from its traditional man-to-man and half-court traps to a 2-3 zone. Although the Terps didn't score anything outside the free-throw line in the first half, they cut deficits of 16-4 and 35-24 to 39-36 by halftime.

Maryland took its first lead, 44-43, on a goaltending call against North Carolina freshman Rasheed Wallace with 17 minutes to go and, after falling behind twice by six, pulled ahead again, 58-56, when Hipp finished an 8-2 run on an 18-footer with a little more than nine minutes left.

"When we're down two or tied, or even when we have the lead against a team that is ranked, we've got to be able to go to the next level," said Simpkins, who equaled his career high for the third straight game despite missing all six of his three-pointers. "We were able to do that against Georgia Tech, but we couldn't do that today. It was a matter of a couple of plays either way."

After looking out of sync for most of the second half, the Tar Heels made the plays they needed down the stretch. Leading 62-60, a drive down the lane by senior point guard Derrick Phelps following a wide-open three-point miss by Rhodes gave North Carolina some breathing room. A tip-in by 7-footer Kevin Salvadori stretched the lead to six.

After a pair of free throws by Smith cut Maryland's deficit back to four with 1:44 left, a drive by Dante Calabria, playing in place of injured leading scorer Donald Williams, made it six.

The Tar Heels, who held the Terps without a field goal during a critical five-minute stretch, finally got into the bonus with 48.6 seconds left. Despite missing their subsequent three free throws, they hit their next seven of eight to keep Maryland at a comfortable distance.

"I was delighted with a win on the road against an extremely good Maryland team," said North Carolina coach Dean Smith, whose Tar Heels likely will move back into the No. 1 ranking after Alabama upset top-ranked Arkansas yesterday. "I thought we showed some poise early, lost it a little and regained it down the line. We've played a lot of NCAA [tournament-caliber] teams so far and to me, Maryland is one of them."

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