Booth drives Terps past Cavs, 83-71 Goes inside to score 29, his second career high vs. Virginia in a month

Rhodes sets ACC steal mark

Simpkins' solid game lifts burden off back

March 03, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- For one afternoon, at least, it was like old times at Cole Field House.

Joe Smith was the object of the roaring crowd's affections, Duane Simpkins actually smiled, and Maryland went inside to its power game to win a critical Atlantic Coast Conference contest.

Only this time it was Keith Booth's power game -- not Smith's -- that spirited Maryland to an 83-71 victory over Virginia to keep alive its NCAA tournament hopes.

Booth scored a career-high 29 points, hitting 10 of 14 shots, and took 10 rebounds to polish off the Cavaliers for the second time this season. A month ago, he killed the Cavs softly with a deft outside shooting touch and what was then a career-high 27 points in an 80-72 win.

"In Charlottesville, Keith Booth hurt us with his jump shots," said Virginia coach Jeff Jones. "Here, he just kicked our rear ends in the paint. He played an outstanding game."

It was an afternoon punctuated by superlatives, starting with the pre-game ceremony that unfurled Smith's No. 32 from the rafters. Last year's national Player of the Year returned to Maryland to formally deliver a $10,000 check to the athletic department and to pick up his glass-encased jersey.

In addition to Booth's big game, the Terps saw senior Johnny Rhodes finally break the ACC's career steals record of 328 held by Chris Corchiani of North Carolina State.

The record-setter was a brilliant hustle play six minutes into the game in which Rhodes tipped the ball away from Virginia's Curtis Staples, then beat him to it. And as Rhodes was going out of bounds, he saved possession by bouncing the ball off Staples.

Even though there was no public address announcement until Rhodes left the game for good, the crowd -- particularly the student section -- rose to acknowledge the 329th steal of his career. Rhodes finished with four steals to run his total to 331, and in a post-game interview over the PA system, told the crowd, "I love you all."

Then there was Simpkins, who hit four of five three-point shots in the first half and ended with 14 points. It was his best game since returning from a three-game NCAA suspension for attempting to repay a university debt with money he received in an improper loan.

"He played with emotion for the first time in a while," coach Gary Williams said. "He stuck a couple [jumpers] early that got us going."

Simpkins couldn't explain it, but said he felt a burden was lifted off him for this game.

"I feel like a gorilla has been taken off my shoulders," he said. "You want to get away from everything else and just play basketball. I've been trying to put it [his NCAA violation] behind me. It's finally to the point it's dying down a little bit."

The victory lifted the Terps to 15-11 and 7-8 in the ACC. They face another crucible tomorrow night when they meet Florida State at home, and Williams said he firmly believes a win then will put the Terps in the NCAA tournament.

"I believe it wholeheartedly," he said. "I think we're in great shape if we win Monday."

The Terps were in great shape yesterday with Booth's performance and a pressing defense that produced 15 steals and 24 turnovers. That represented the most turnovers by Virginia (12-14, 6-10) since an ACC tournament appearance in March 1994. The Cavs went 63 games without as many as 20 turnovers.

"Maryland has an outstanding pressing team, but for us to have 24 turnovers and give up 15 steals is inexcusable," Jones said.

Virginia never could find a suitable defensive matchup for Booth. The Cavaliers started with 6-foot-9 Chris Alexander and ultimately went to 6-7 Jamal Robinson to cope with Booth, who is 6-6.

"Keith's quickness was a factor today, just as it was the last time," Williams said of the former Dunbar star. "He's a different type player than they have inside. That's why they went to Jamal Robinson, to try to stop his quickness."

Booth scored on a variety of inside shots and moves.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive on the inside, not try to score a lot of points," he said. "Once I was inside, I did a great job making strong moves to the basket. When you pound inside first, it gets everything else going."

Under and in

Since 1985, when the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, seven teams with losing records in ACC play have gone to the tournament. In 1987, N.C. State earned an automatic bid by winning the ACC tournament. The other six received at- large bids.

Year, Team ....................... ACC record

1986, Maryland ................... 6-8

1987, N.C. State ................. 6-8

1988, Maryland ................... 6-8

1990, Virginia ................... 6-8

1991, Georgia Tech ............... 6-8

1991, Virginia ................... 6-8

1992, Wake Forest ................ 7-9

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