Terps pull rank on Tech, 80-67, elude upset run

January 05, 1995|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- They were well aware of the early returns from the state of North Carolina last night, from the pair of upsets down on Tobacco Road. The Maryland Terrapins also were cognizant of another fact.

They didn't want to be the third highly ranked Atlantic Coast Conference team to lose their league opener. With that in mind, seventh-ranked Maryland took care of business as well as No. 24 Georgia Tech at sold-out Cole Field House.

With all five starters in double figures, and by turning up the level of their defense in the second half, the Terps beat the Yellow Jackets, 80-67. The victory helped set up Saturday night's showdown with lame-duck No. 1 North Carolina, which was upset in Raleigh by North Carolina State.

Juniors Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp led Maryland (11-2, 1-0) with 16 points each, and sophomore All-American Joe Smith finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Sophomore forward Keith Booth had 14 points and junior guard Duane Simpkins had 10 points and 10 assists.

The Terps contained Georgia Tech's two big guns, Travis Best and James Forrest. Best scored 14 in the first half, but had only four in the second half and Forrest, who has often hurt Maryland in the past because of his bulk inside, had 12.

It helped Maryland avoid the same fate that had befallen both the Tar Heels and No. 11 Duke, which was upset at home by Clemson. What also helped was some clutch foul shooting down the stretch. The Terps hit nine of their last 10 to put the game away.

The victory was only the third in 11 games for Gary Williams over Bobby Cremins at Maryland, but was reminiscent of last year's season opener in Atlanta. This time, the Terps led by as many as 17 but Georgia Tech (8-4, 0-1) never got closer than eight after that.

Except for Rhodes blowing an easy layup off a steal on Georgia Tech's opening possession, things started spectacularly for the Terps. They hit six of their first nine shots, forced four early turnovers and jumped out to leads of 11-4 and 19-12.

Maryland flattened out, going nearly 4 1/2 minutes between baskets. The Yellow Jackets, who hadn't helped their cause by missing their first five free throws, scored seven straight points in a 12-4 run.

A three-point shot by Best put Georgia Tech ahead, 24-23, with just over seven minutes remaining in the half. A rebound basket by reserve forward Mario Lucas, his first after missing his first four shots, gave the lead back to the Terps.

But the Yellow Jackets regained it with a three-pointer by freshman guard Matt Harpring and another three by Best gave Georgia Tech a 30-26 lead, making the crowd a bit anxious. The Maryland players weren't, scoring nine straight themselves to take a 35-30 lead on a three-pointer by Simpkins.

After Harpring hit another shot to trim the lead back to three, the teams traded turnovers and poor shots. After freshman Sarunas Jasikevicius missed an ill-advised three-pointer as the Terps were trying to work the clock down in the final seconds, Forrest was called for traveling with 6.9 seconds left.

Just as it seemed Maryland would have to settle for a three-point lead at halftime, Simpkins doubled it. Momentarily losing the ball at halfcourt with a couple of seconds left, Simpkins took a running start and hit a one-handed, off-balance 30-footer to give the Terps a 38-32 lead.

Best led the Yellow Jackets with 14 points on five-of-six shooting, but Forrest was held to four points, hitting just two of six from the field. Simpkins, Hipp and Booth each had eight for Maryland.

Georgia Tech did a good job of containing Smith in the first half by double-teaming the 6-10 center, who missed four of seven shots and finished with six points.

Rhodes started the second-half run with a three-pointer. After Drew Barry scored for the Yellow Jackets, Smith made two free throws and a dunk before Hipp jammed off his own steal.

It was 48-38 before Smith and Rhodes made successive layups and reserve guard Wayne Bristol converted a three-point play to give the Terrapins a 17-point cushion.

Georgia Tech used a 10-2 run to close to 67-59 with 3:42 left, but Rhodes hit a layup and Hipp converted an alley-oop pass from Simpkins to make it 71-59.

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