Terps bedeviled no more, 74-72

January 29, 1995|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- After a decade of frustration, after 15 straight defeats to Duke and just as many what-ifs for Maryland, you didn't expect it to be easy. Did you?

It wasn't.

But in the end, as Erik Meek's last-second 10-foot baseline jumper was sent flying out of bounds by Joe Smith, it was as sweet a victory as the Terrapins had experienced under Gary Williams and as tough a win as they've had all season.

With forwards Keith Booth and Exree Hipp taking over the scoring role usually reserved for Smith, the eighth-ranked Terps beat the Blue Devils, 74-72, yesterday before a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House.

Asked if an albatross was removed from his neck by finally beating Duke, Williams said, "I don't know what an albatross is, but it feels pretty . . . good. It's one of those things where we lost to national champions. We didn't lose to any bad teams."

Maryland won because Hipp's hot shooting in the first half helped erase a nine-point deficit with a 20-2 run, and because Booth's strong inside play down the stretch allowed the Terps to regain the lead four times in the final 4:20 of the game after blowing a 14-point lead.

Booth scored a career-high 22 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds and Hipp, who made a career-high five six three-pointers, finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Booth, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Dunbar, scored Maryland's last eight points, including the game-winner on a baseline dunk with 1:03 to play.

"I think he [Booth] stepped up at the right time time," said Hipp. "I opened it up from the outside and he went inside."

Said Booth: "The first half, I tried play more of a power game and I got tired of getting my shots blocked. I went to my finesse game in the second half. I think I had the advantage with my quickness."

Though Smith had the worst offensive performance of his college career -- six points -- his defense saved Maryland for the second straight game with two blocks in the final minute. And just as he did Wednesday night at Clemson, Smith preserved a narrow victory with a swat of his right hand.

Coming in off an 8-for-8 night against the Tigers and having made 14 straight field-goal attempts, Smith never really got into any kind of offensive flow yesterday. After starting out a quiet 2-for-4, the 6-foot-10 sophomore missed his last six shots, including all five in the second half.

"Joe's not going to go 2-for-10 very often -- I hope," said Williams, referring to only the second time Smith has been held to single digits. "A lot of people think we can't play if Joe doesn't have a great game, but we've done it before.

"In the first half, Exree stepped up and hit some shots, got us back and gave us some confidence. In the second half, Joe was struggling and Keith stepped up and was a man out there. He delivered. People forget Keith's only a sophomore. He's a great player. The great ones will step up when we need him."

The Great One -- Smith -- stepped up in the frantic, final seconds. After Booth's inbounds pass was stolen in the backcourt by Duke guard Jeff Capel, the Blue Devils called timeout with 13.3 seconds left. They set up a play for Trajan Langdon off a double-screen, but their own inbounds went deep into Maryland's backcourt, forcing freshman point guard Steve Wojciechowski to retrieve it and hurry into the offense.

Wojciechowski, who had missed a 12-footer with 19.2 seconds to play, drove on Duane Simpkins down the left side of the lane, but Smith stepped in. With Langdon covered, the former Cardinal Gibbons star then dished to Meek along the left baseline. The 6-10 senior, who had scored 12 points inside against Smith, had no option but to go up for a jump shot. Smith flew at him and smacked it out of bounds as time expired.

"I was just trying to make him change his shot. I wasn't trying to block it," said Smith, who blocked Rayfield Ragland's three-point shot with 8.4 seconds left to help the Terps hang onto a 56-51 win over the Tigers, as well as a shot by Capel with 25.7 seconds to go. "Fortunately I got a piece of it."

Said Meek: "I wasn't even looking for the shot. We had a play set up for Trajan. I never saw him [Smith] coming."

The victory was the fifth straight in the Atlantic Coast Conference for Maryland (16-3, 6-1), giving the Terps their best start in the league since 1979-80 and keeping them tied for first place with North Carolina.

But the victory wasn't just necessarily over this year's Duke team, which lost for the seventh time in eight games (10-9 overall) and remained winless in the ACC by losing for the seventh straight time. It was over a collection of Duke teams that had won not only each meeting in the past seven years, but also 21 of 22 dating to 1985.

There were "a lot of ghosts out there," said Williams, alluding to the Duke players of the past decade -- as well as to sidelined

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