At least Terps won't get Hog-tied

March 26, 1994|By JOHN EISENBERG

DALLAS -- Consider the bright side: At least the Terps don't have to walk the plank against Arkansas tomorrow in front of a screaming crowd of Hog-calling fans wearing snout heads.

Considering the advantage in size, depth and experience the intimidating Razorbacks would have had, it's just as well that Michigan's older, wiser Fab (Almost) Five takes on the task of trying to ruin President Clinton's day when he shows up tomorrow to wooooo, pig sooie.

Not that there was ever any doubt last night at Reunion Arena that Michigan was more deserving of the opportunity. The Fabs' 78-71 wipeout of the Terps in their Midwest Regional semifinal wasn't as close as the score indicated.

The Terps started well, but stopped running their offense and got blown out. For 20 minutes they were every bit as inept as they were spectacular against Massachusetts in the second round.

These were the Terps who lost eight of 12 games to end the season, not the Terps who shone so brightly in Wichita.

"Things kind of came apart there for a while," point guard Duane Simpkins said. "We just couldn't get the ball where we wanted."

Where they wanted most to get it, of course, was to Sensational Freshman Joe Smith, who was double-teamed and harassed into a season-ending stinker that bore no resemblance to his shimmering season.

Smith went 0-for-4 in the first half and finished the game with three baskets and 12 points. His Michigan counterpart, Juwan ++ Howard, scored over him steadily, finishing with 24 points on nine-of-15 shooting.

At the end of the game, Howard, a junior, rubbed Smith's head fondly and offered words of consolation, as a parent might to a child.

"He just said for me to keep my head up," Smith said.

Smith was taken out of his game almost as soon as the game began. Howard and a rotating band of Fabs double-teamed him even when he didn't have the ball, making entry passes difficult.

"It was frustrating in there, for sure," Smith said. "Howard was very physical, very tough. And it just seemed like they were swarming me."

Smith did contribute 14 rebounds and three blocks.

"I wouldn't say it was my worst game," he said. "I just did what I could."

Without Smith's usual contribution, the Terps didn't have enough offense to keep up -- not on a night when Johnny Rhodes, Duane Simpkins and Exree Hipp made only 11 of 29 shots, and the team missed 17 of 36 free throws.

"Michigan plays excellent defense and basically pushed us out of position and took us out of some things," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "And I think maybe we looked up after 15 minutes, realized we had a chance to win and finally got nervous."

The Terps led after 12 minutes but scored only one basket in the last eight minutes of the half, enabling Michigan to build a lead. Suddenly everything went wrong. Keith Booth missed a dunk. Hipp missed the rim on a three-pointer. Howard blocked a follow shot by Smith. Wayne Bristol committed a charging foul driving through the lane. Hipp threw a cross-court pass out of bounds. Bristol missed a three-pointer.

Michigan's Jalen Rose hit a jumper from the baseline, Jimmy King followed with a three-pointer and the margin was up to nine.

The Terps had a chance to get back in the game when Fab starters King and Ray Jackson went to the bench with their fourth fouls early in the second half, but the Terps' offensive synchronization was gone.

Michigan, with Howard scoring steadily over Smith, built the margin to as high as 21 points with nine minutes left.

The Terps, to their credit, kept playing hard and cut the lead to six with 90 seconds to play. But the hole was too deep.

At the end of the night, they sat in the locker room with mixed emotions, disappointed at losing but unable to shake the thrill of making the Sweet 16.

"We did the unthinkable this year," Simpkins said. "We have so

much to be proud of. It just hurts right now."

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