LANDOVER -- This was what Maryland wanted. Marcus Camby in first-half foul trouble, Massachusetts on its heels, a lead to nurse down the stretch.
But that dream scheme turned into an afternoon nightmare when Maryland's 13-point second-half lead dissolved into a 50-47 loss to No. 5 UMass in the Franklin Bank Classic at USAir Arena yesterday.
Consider it a painful reminder of what the Terps miss most with Joe Smith playing in the NBA this season.
"They just killed us on the offensive boards," Maryland guard Johnny Rhodes said of UMass' staggering 24 offensive rebounds. "We played good defense. But that was the only way they scored."
UMass' domination on both backboards (44-23) was one in a series of ugly lines on the Maryland stat sheet. Just as telling was the Terps' 19-point second half, when they hit only five of 19 shots and saw the Minutemen effectively take Rhodes out of a sputtering offense.
Rhodes, averaging 26 points in the season's first two games, was held to seven, and missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. Without Rhodes, the Terps' half-court offense was an unsolved mystery.
The 47 points represented Maryland's lowest total in Gary Williams' seven years as coach, and was the least they've scored since a 69-47 loss to North Carolina State early in the 1987-88 season.
"We've got to find a way to score," Williams said. "We were getting pretty good looks, but the ball isn't going in. We're just as good as the teams we're playing against. It's time to step up."
The next slippery step comes in today's consolation round against George Washington, a 75-66 loser to Florida.
Maryland (1-2) had plenty of chances to win yesterday, but couldn't get it done. The Terps were hindered by poor shooting, foul trouble (point guard Duane Simpkins played the last five minutes with four fouls) and the continued absence on the offensive end of Exree Hipp (four points) and Mario Lucas (five points, five turnovers).
Perhaps most perplexing was Maryland's inability to take advantage of Camby's early foul difficulty. Moments after UMass' marvelous 6-foot-11 shot-blocker went over Lucas' back for his third personal in the first half, the Terps pushed out to their biggest lead of the game, 28-12.
But just as swiftly as it came, that lead started to dissipate. Even without Camby on the floor, the Minutemen (2-0) closed within 28-19 at halftime.
"[Tyrone] Weeks stepped up and the team played real well to hold them to a single-digit lead at halftime," Camby said.
In the nine-plus minutes that Camby spent on the bench in the first half, the Minutemen actually outscored the Terps, 11-9. Even when he turned an ankle in the second half and motioned for a sub, UMass coach John Calipari wasn't taking his star out. Camby finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks -- and never picked up a fourth foul.
"It is nice to know that Marcus Camby can still play, even in foul trouble," Calipari said.
Camby altered any number of Maryland shots, and turned the Terps into reluctant shooters.
"We couldn't get the next foul on him," Williams said. "He makes it very difficult to score when you've got the ball in the paint.
"I thought we did well getting the ball inside, but we didn't finish."
Not finishing plays was symbolic of a larger shortcoming. The Terps were scoreless in the last 4:34 of the first half, and scoreless in the last 4:29 of the game.
"It wasn't really the defense," said Rhodes. "I just think we weren't executing. It was more us [than UMass]."
UMass guard Carmelo Travieso hounded Rhodes into a 3-for-8 performance, and got defensive help funneling him inside toward Camby much of the game.
For all of its offensive problems, Maryland was still in control five minutes into the second half. Keith Booth, playing mostly against his cousin, Donta Bright, turned alley-oop passes from Simpkins and Rhodes into power dunks. When Rhodes scored inside, it was 37-24 with 15:19 left.
UMass went on a 9-0 run at that point, and used a 19-5 spurt to take its first lead of the game, 43-42. There were ties at 45 and 47.
It was left to Camby, fittingly, to put the Minutemen ahead for good. With the shot clock down to :03 and the game clock at 2:00, he hit a turn-around jumper over Lucas to break the 47-47 tie.
Maryland spent the rest of the game trying to get the ball to Rhodes.
Rhodes stole the ball from Camby in a Maryland triple team with 40 seconds left, and Maryland called time with 22.4 remaining.
"We called a play for Johnny Rhodes," Williams said. "They did a good job defensing it. We had decent time to get a shot off, we just didn't score."
Simpkins passed to Rhodes coming across the lane, but the ball was deflected and Rhodes threw it right back. Simpkins hurried a three-pointer with :02 on the shot clock and missed. Hipp, unchecked from the right wing, leaped high for a left-handed tip, but it didn't go in.
Camby got the ball, was fouled by Booth with 6.7 seconds left, and hit the second of two free throws. That made it 50-47.
Booth raced the ball upcourt, then found Rhodes for a rushed three-pointer from the right side that missed badly.
"It wasn't a good shot at all," Rhodes said. "They had a man flying at me. But it was the only shot I could take."