Heels hold off Terps, 95-89

February 11, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It could have been the most stunning upset in an already shocking college basketball season. Instead, it turned into an encouraging step forward for the University of Maryland and freshman center Joe Smith.

Trailing top-ranked North Carolina by 18 with about nine minutes remaining at the Smith Center last night, the Terrapins threw a major scare into the Tar Heels and a crowd of 14,010 before succumbing down the stretch, 95-89.

After the Terps hit six straight shots to cut a 74-56 deficit to 78-77, Smith missed on a drive over 7-footer Kevin Salvadori with a little more than three minutes left. North Carolina used that opening to get some breathing room, and capitalized on a pair of Maryland turnovers to score six straight points.

"It is really tough to get down that far at halftime and expect to win, but we did have a chance," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team emerged from its recent shooting slump by hitting over 50 percent (33 of 65, nine of 16 on threes) for the first time in five games. "We got the ball to our guy, but the ball just didn't go in. We should have won. We got it where we wanted it."

Said Joe Smith, who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, "This game shows that we can get ourselves back together and play the way we did earlier this season."

It was the fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference defeat for Maryland (12-7, 5-5), but there were several positive signs going into tomorrow's game at Florida State. It certainly left Williams in a better mood than he was at halftime, when his team trailed by 14 only because North Carolina (20-3, 8-2) had made but seven of its 21 free throws.

"We didn't deserve to be in the game at halftime," said Williams. "We didn't rebound [29-16 in favor of the Tar Heels, who had 20 of their 24 offensive rebounds by halftime]. "They're big and they're aggressive, but you've got to compete. I didn't think we wanted to compete."

Except for a run early in the second half, which cut North Carolina's lead to nine, it didn't appear Maryland was going to be competitive last night. But after the Tar Heels doubled their lead back to 18 on a jump hook by Salvadori with 8:46 left, the Terps got as mad as their coach.

And then they nearly got even.

The comeback was fueled not only by Smith, who came into the game having missed 45 of his past 60 shots, but by guards Duane Simpkins and Wayne Bristol. Each finished with 15 points, with 24 of their combined 30 points coming in the second half. Until the comeback, Simpkins had been badly outplayed by North Carolina senior Derrick Phelps (22 points, seven steals).

Simpkins, who had missed 18 of 23 shots and made critical turnovers in recent losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech, hit five of six shots, including two of three on threes. Bristol, a little-used junior who played because Johnny Rhodes fouled out with seven minutes left, was six of nine, three of four on threes.

"Wayne's been playing this way in practice," said Williams. "He wanted to be out there tonight, you could see it in his eyes. And Duane was tough out there. That's the way he has to play for us to be competitive against teams like Carolina."

It was Maryland's second narrow defeat this season to the Tar Heels, who won a similar game in College Park last month, 75-70. It left North Carolina coach Dean Smith congratulating the Terps for their comeback, and concerned about the way his team handled its big lead.

The victory was the seventh straight for the Tar Heels -- their 24th straight at home -- and prevented them from becoming the seventh No. 1 team in as many weeks to lose.

"The crowd that we had [7,000 stayed home because of an ice storm] got into it tonight," said Smith, who extended his record with a 24th straight 20-win season. "Maryland helped that with a great comeback. In the first half, I thought we played great basketball. We needed one like this. We haven't had a lot of close games and it was good for us."

It was good for Maryland, despite another loss. This was a game many expected them to lose -- and lose big. It had the makings of a big-time blowout and turned into a big-time, if ill-fated, comeback. If the Terps break their losing streak in Tallahassee and turn their season back on course, they will look at the second half last night as the turning point.

"We have to use this as a springboard," said Williams, whose Terps slipped into fifth place in the ACC behind Wake Forest, which beat Florida State last night. "I'm not big on moral-type victories. But coming in to the No. 1 team's building and having a chance to take one, you feel good. But you never want to take away the urgency of winning."

ACC STANDINGS Conference Overall

B6 .. .. .. .. .. W .. L .. Pct .. .. W .. .. L .. Pct

Duke . .. .. .. 8 .. 2 .. .800 . .. 17 . .. 2 .. .895

N. Carolina ... 8 .. 2 .. .800 . .. 20 . .. 3 .. .870

Virginia ... .. 6 .. 4 .. .600 . .. 12 . .. 7 .. .632

W. Forest .. .. 5 .. 4 .. .556 . .. 15 . .. 7 .. .682

Maryland ... .. 5 .. 5 .. .500 . .. 12 . .. 7 .. .632

Clemson . .. .. 3 .. 6 .. .333 . .. 12 . . 10 .. .556

Ga. Tech ... .. 3 .. 7 .. .300 . .. 12 . .. 9 .. .571

Fla. St. ... .. 3 .. 7 .. .300 . .. 10 . .. 9 .. .526

N.C. State . .. 3 .. 7 .. .300 . ... 8 . . 13 .. .381

Yesterday's results

Wake Forest 77, Florida St. 69

North Carolina 95, Maryland 89

Tomorrow's games

Clemson at Virginia, noon

Maryland at Florida State, 2 p.m.

Ga. Tech at N. Carolina, 3:30 p.m.

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