Minutemen clock Terps in 78-61 rout Bidding for NCAA bid, unranked UMass catches UM napping

Loss is 4th in 6 games

Booth says 'we didn't come out ready to play'

February 16, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WORCESTER, Mass. -- There was a discernible difference in emotion between Maryland and Massachusetts yesterday here at The Centrum. The 10th-ranked Terrapins looked like a team that had little at stake. The Minutemen looked like a team that had its postseason on the line.

From Charlton Clarke's chest-bumping that led off the pre-game introductions, the Minutemen came out firing. Except for a brief flash from sophomore guard Laron Profit in the first half, the Terrapins fired only blanks. But even under those circumstances, the result was worse than Maryland coach Gary Williams could imagine.

With Clarke's outside shooting helping Massachusetts to a 13-point halftime lead, and with Lari Ketner dominating inside in the second half, Maryland was embarrassed, 78-61, before a crowd of 11,210 and a regional television audience. It was the largest margin of defeat of the season for the Terps, coming exactly a week after they had lost by 12 at Clemson.

"Give UMass credit," Williams said. "They were a lot quicker than we were today. They seemed to get to every loose ball. They did a great job of executing their offense and we didn't. That's a bad combination. There was nothing we did as well as they did. They were a better team than we were."

Williams refused to use the short preparation time after Thursday night's home victory over Florida State or the fact that this nonconference game had little bearing on his team's season as causes for Maryland's most lackluster effort in a while. But he didn't deny that it might have played a factor in his team's fourth defeat in its past six games, one that undoubtedly will knock Maryland (19-6) out of the Top 10 for the first time in more than a month.

As he stood outside his team's locker room, Williams seemed more troubled about this loss than usual.

"You're always concerned when you lose," he said. "I don't know if mentally we were as ready as I thought we would be. We'll see Wednesday night [against Georgia Tech]. That will be the test."

The Terrapins never got closer than 10 points in the second half and after falling behind by as many as 21, 64-43, they never cut their deficit under 11. It was an impressive performance by Massachusetts (16-10), the 10th victory in the last 11 games, and one that enhanced its NCAA tournament chances.

"We don't want the [selection committee] to make the decision," said first-year coach Bruiser Flint. "We want to be sitting there on selection Sunday figuring where we're going to go and who we're going to play. This game should help us."

Things didn't start off poorly for Maryland, but what some Massachusetts players perceived as early-game showboating by the Terrapins might have been as big an impetus as a prospective NCAA bid. One play in particular irked Clarke, a three-on-none fast break that finished with Terrell Stokes throwing a lob to Profit for a one-handed dunk instead of laying it in himself.

"They came out and they acted like they were playing against a high school team," Clarke said. "It was time for us to turn it on."

Although Profit had a productive afternoon offensively, finishing with 21 points, he and the rest of the Terrapins had a rough time defensively.

Profit was the victim of most of Clarke's game-high 22 points. Clarke, who came in averaging a little over 10 points a game and shooting just over 40 percent, hit his first three threes and four of his first five shots before finishing 8-for-14 overall. A few of his early threes came after Profit had doubled down inside trying to swipe passes from Ketner or Tyrone Weeks.

"Obviously that strategy didn't work because their big men did a great job of passing out of the double teams," said Profit. "And they kept hitting their shots."

Ketner, a 6-foot-11 sophomore who sat out last season because of academic deficiencies, scored a career-high 19 points to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Carmelo Travieso added 16 points, 12 in the first half when the Minutemen raced out to a 35-20 lead and gave Maryland its biggest halftime deficit of the season at 41-28.

But unlike other games -- including the win at North Carolina when they trailed by 12 at halftime and by 22 with a little under 15 minutes left -- the Terrapins couldn't muster the emotion to fuel another comeback. Most of the players traced it back to the beginning of the game. Or even before the game.

"We didn't come out ready to play and it cost us," said senior forward Keith Booth, who missed his first four shots (including three that were blocked) and had five turnovers in a four-point first half. "They played a lot harder than we did."

Said Travieso: "It seemed to me like they were a little mellow, like they were going through the motions. We needed this game to help get us into the NCAA tournament and they've played well all year."

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