Tech's 2 runs bring Terps to ACC finish line Jackets' 8-0 start, 28-6 follow-up sink UM in tourney, 84-79

Sluggish 1st half is mystery

Booth, Rhodes score 33 of 41 second-half points

March 10, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- This time, there was no reprieve coming off the bench, no freshman phenom racing to the rescue.

This time, following a dreary theme that has played out all season, the Maryland Terrapins stumbled and ultimately fell under the weight of another wretched start.

Write off yesterday's 84-79 loss to 18th-ranked Georgia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal to a sleepwalking first half when the Terps fell behind by as many as 18 points.

When Keith Booth powered inside to get Maryland's first points of the game, it broke a scoreless drought of 4: 33. By then, the Terps were staring out of an 8-0 hole. Things would get better, briefly, and then they would get worse --much worse.

Maryland came back for a 22-18 lead at the 10-minute mark. Then, like the good counterpuncher it is, Georgia Tech answered with a 28-6 run to take a 46-28 lead with 1: 58 to go in the half.

That thunderous eight-minute lull proved more than either Booth, who had a career-high 33 points, or Johnny Rhodes, who had 20, could overcome.

"We can play with anybody in the country as long as we play 40 minutes," Rhodes said. "The first half really hurt us. They had us down 18 at one point. Once you try to cut a deficit down, it takes a lot out of you."

So ended Maryland's bid to return to the ACC championship game for the first time since CZ: CANT FIND IN BOOK 1984. All that is left now is today's announcement by the NCAA Selection Committee of the tournament pairings.

Maryland will have to count on the strength of its 17-12 record and a schedule peppered with college powers to make its third straight NCAA appearance. The Terps' record against ranked teams this season dropped to 3-6 with the loss.

Coach Gary Williams said he felt no anxiety over the prospect of Selection Sunday.

"No, I thought we did what we had to do coming in here, against a team we tied for fourth," he said. "For us to get a win here, and take the No. 1 seed to a five-point game . . . I think we helped ourselves here."

The Terps beat Duke, 82-69, on Friday when freshman Laron Profit came off the bench with a huge 19-point game.

Maryland got no such breaks yesterday. Although While Georgia Tech (22-10) connected on nine three-pointers treys in the first 20 minutes including four by forward Michael Maddox the Terps hit just 13 of 31 shots and only three from beyond the arc.

One more time, there were no answers for the malaise, only the hard edge of reality.

"The first half was the difference in my eyes," said freshman guard Terrell Stokes. "We came out real flat . . . we had to use so much energy to get back."

Asked to account for these eyesores, Stokes passed. "I can't tell you," he said. "Ask the seniors."

Senior Duane Simpkins suggested the Terps get knocked out of sync when they misfire in the opening minutes.

"That's tough to answer," he said. "We miss a couple shots we should make. It's tough sometimes. Of late, Obinna [Ekezie] has been down. We need to get everybody playing together."

Mario Lucas, a senior and, like Stokes, a reserve, didn't have the answer, either.

"I don't know," Lucas said. "I think the coach should start yanking players quicker if they're not ready to play. We've got a deep bench. We should get them out if they're not going to perform."

Rhodes couldn't put his finger on the problem, either, but alluded to Maryland's woes in early starting times.

"I have no idea at all," he said of the problem. "We just have to overcome that. If we get into the NCAA tournament, who knows what time we'll be playing at?"

L Obviously, the 1: 30 p.m. semifinal tipoff wasn't suitable.

Booth and Rhodes got the wake-up call in the second half, even if the others did not. In a remarkable tag-team performance, they combined for 33 of Maryland's 41 second-half points. Booth's game total of 33 represented the third-highest in Maryland's ACC tourney participation. Both Walt Williams (1992) and Albert King (1980) scored 38.

The Terps cut steadily into the deficit, and when Booth hit two free throws with 34.6 seconds left, Georgia Tech's lead was only 81-77.

That was as close as Maryland could get, though. The Yellow Jackets, who play Wake Forest in today's championship game, put the game away by hitting three of four free throws after Stokes fouled twice.

Georgia Tech had just one field goal in the final nine minutes of the game (and 15 of 18 free throws), but it was a big one. Stephon Marbury stepped in front of Simpkins to steal a pass from Lucas and scored a layup with 4: 26 to play. That gave Tech a 77-67 lead.

"I didn't see Marbury," Lucas said. "Duane was calling for the ball. Marbury came out of nowhere."

Turtle-like

Slow starts have hurt Maryland in at least six games this season, all losses:

Opp. ............. Deficit ....... Time in 1st .......... Final*

UCLA ............. 14-3 .......... 14:20 ................ 73-63

N.C. (1st) ....... 15-4 .......... 14:44 ................ 88-86

(1st) ....... 11-2 .......... 16:08 ................ 77-64

Duke (1st) ....... 20-8 .......... 13:56 ................ 83-73

(2nd) ....... 13-4 .......... 16:38 ................ 85-78

G.T. (semi) ...... 8-0 ........... 17:22 ................ 84-79

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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