Terps, Elliott survive 'Pack charge, 86-84 Ex-Poet draws key foul after late 20-point lead shrinks to one

State misses 3 shots at end

Rhodes hits 8 of 9

Elliott goes 6-for-6

February 23, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Rodney Elliott went from spare part to game-saver last night, from "Who's he?" to instant hero.

He made the journey with an uncanny shooting touch and the defensive play of the game, a combination that helped Maryland fend off North Carolina State, 86-84, in a raucous Atlantic Coast Conference game at Reynolds Coliseum.

It also put the Terps (14-9, 6-6) in position to sweep a two-game road trip when they visit Clemson tomorrow.

Maryland won it in dramatic fashion, but only after State blew two golden opportunities to win the game. First, Elliott drew a charge call against State's Al Pinkins in the final 12 seconds to deny the Wolfpack on a two-on-one break.

Then the Terps had to withstand three desperation Wolfpack shots -- each one closer than the previous -- before the buzzer sounded.

"When you play on the road, it's a win -- there's no eking it out on the road," said Maryland coach Gary Williams after watching his team turn a 20-point blowout with nine minutes left into a cliffhanger at the end.

With 8:54 to play, Laron Profit hit a three-point shot to put Maryland up 76-56 in what had the appearance of a walkover.

But the Wolfpack -- the hard-luck team of the ACC -- went on an 11-0 run and eventually got within a point at 85-84 with 53.4 seconds left.

Maryland ran down the clock, but its possession ended with Keith Booth firing an airball from the three-point arc. The shot clock went off as the ball careened out of bounds with 17.3 seconds left.

That's when Williams used his final timeout and came up with decisive strategy.

"During the timeout, we decided to go with our best defense and put pressure on the ball," he said. "It was a gamble, but we played so bad in our man-to-man defense in the second half.

"If you're going to lose a game like that, you want to lose it aggressively. We pulled off our all-out press with seven minutes left, and that was too early."

State wound up getting the ball to Pinkins, who raced in from the right with 6-foot-11 Todd Fuller (game-high 23 points) running in from the left -- behind Elliott.

"They didn't want their big man to bring the ball up the court," Elliott said. "I just tried to play the best two-on-one defense I could play. Al Pinkins kept coming, and I knew if I could get my feet planted, I'd get the charge.

"In my mind, I knew I had to get there early."

He did, Pinkins ran into him and, with 12.8 seconds left, the foul was called. But it still wasn't over.

Booth (17 points, seven rebounds) hit one of two free throws to make it 86-84 with 9.3 seconds remaining.

State (14-12, 3-10) had enough time to get off three shots. Ishua Benjamin missed the first from three-point territory, Clint Harrison missed an off-balance follow-up, and then, at the buzzer, Fuller's tip hit off the back iron.

"Evidently, it seemed we were destined to make a great run and lose at the buzzer," said State coach Les Robinson, whose Wolfpack has lost eight ACC games by a combined 24 points.

If a close victory is rare for the Wolfpack, a runaway win is virtually impossible for the Terps, who handle big leads dangerously this season. They nearly let a big lead get away at North Carolina.

"This was a great win for us," Booth said. "Whether we win by 20 or by two doesn't matter. We did lose our composure down the stretch, though."

The Terps came through Duane Simpkins' three-game suspension with two victories.

Oddly, without their best shooter, the Terps have enjoyed their two best shooting games of the season. They hit 60.3 percent in a non-conference win over Missouri on Sunday, and shot 61 percent against State, including 66.7 in the second half.

Johnny Rhodes led the team with 20 points -- his fourth straight game at 20 or better -- and hit eight of nine shots.

But he was outdone -- at least in field-goal accuracy -- by Elliott, the former Dunbar star who has been relegated to a reserve role the past month.

Elliott went 6-for-6 from the field, including one three-pointer, and finished with 13 points in 15 minutes. Against Missouri, he was 6-for-7 for 15 points in 13 minutes.

"I guess we've got to get him more shots," Williams said.

After trailing by as much as six in the early going, Maryland finished the first half with a 13-5 run and 43-36 lead.

The Terps' Dunbar contingent played big in the first half. Booth scored eight of Maryland's first 18 points, and Elliott scored nine of the last 17.

It was Elliott's three-pointer from the corner with 4:44 left in the half that gave the Terps a 33-31 lead and one minute later he scored on a short jumper to make it 35-31.

Fuller, the 6-11 center who scored a season-low eight points in State's 77-74 overtime loss to Maryland in College Park, passed that total with 10 minutes to play in the first half when he hit a short baseline jumper over Mario Lucas. That gave him nine points, and he finished the half with 13.

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