Charleston gives Terps seat, 75-66 UM rallies after Profit, Stokes return from benchings, still loses

4-9 tailspin ends season

12th seed extends winning streak to 23

March 14, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A season that began with such promise ended with another early exit from the NCAA tournament. In the end, the College of Charleston was for real and the Maryland Terrapins were not.

In Elvis' adopted hometown, the Terrapins have left the building.

In this case it was The Pyramid after last night's 75-66 to the 16th-ranked but 12th-seeded Cougars in the opening round of the Southeast Regional.

After two straight Sweet 16 appearances, it was the second straight time Maryland (21-11) didn't make it to the second round. The Terrapins finished the season with nine losses in their last 13 games.

"It's the worst feeling as a coach," coach Gary Williams said. "There's no way to describe it. I didn't think it would end tonight. I didn't want it to end tonight. I wanted us to play more. It will hurt the next couple of weeks. We didn't go out playing the way we had this year."

The victory, the first ever by the Cougars in the NCAA tournament, stretched the nation's longest Division I winning streak to 23 games and pushed the College of Charleston (29-2) into the second round against the winner of last night's second game between Arizona and South Alabama.

"The dream season continues," Charleston coach John Kresse said. "Once again, we met the challenge and rose to the occasion. We're not the Rodney Dangerfields anymore. We're for real. It's a tremendous moment in the life of this program and college."

The early-game benchings of Maryland sophomores Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes seemed to have a negligible effect, since the Terps (21-11) seemed just as out of sync after turning an early nine-point deficit into a three-point lead early in the second half.

Profit came off the bench to score 16 points, but after 14 first-half points he didn't score in the second half until 30.9 seconds were left. Playing his final game for the Terrapins, senior forward Keith Booth finished with 18.

Matt Kovarik, who started in place of Stokes at the point, said: "I don't think [the benchings] had any effect. Basically, we all played the same minutes we usually do."

Senior forward Stacy Harris led the Cougars with 22 points.

The College of Charleston used a 10-0 streak early in the second half to erase a 38-35 deficit and take control of the game. The Terrapins later cut an 11-point deficit to eight, but a turnover led to a breakaway dunk by Harris with a little under three minutes left.

After another turnover, the play that basically ended what little hope Maryland had came when Shane McCravy hit a three-point shot and was fouled by Profit, hitting the free throw to complete the four-point play. It was all over but the pouting for the Terrapins.

"We basically fell apart," Kovarik said.

A season that began with 17 wins in the first 19 games and talk about how chemistry had played a major role in the success, the curfew-breaking by Profit and Stokes at last week's ACC tournament left a bad taste on the season.

With their fans alternately cheering for the Cougars and yelling 'Overrated overrated" at the Terrapins, the clock might have run out on the game but continued one of college basketball's biggest Cinderella stories. Charleston will play tomorrow for a chance to go to the Sweet 16 next week in Birmingham, Ala.

Things did not start well for the Terrapins. Maryland committed five turnovers and missed four of six shots with a little less than six minutes gone in the game, falling behind 11-6. Williams inserted the two sophomores into the lineup, but Charleston built its lead to 18-9 on a lob dunk by Sedric Webber over Stokes with 10: 41 to go.

The Terrapins rallied by scoring the next nine points in a 15-4 run that ended with three straight three-point shots, the last two by Profit and Stokes for a 24-22 lead. The Cougars then scored five straight, but another three by Profit tied the game at 27.

Maryland went cold, missing three straight shots and committing a turnover. A three-point shot by Anthony Johnson and a 16-footer by Harris pushed the lead to five, and one of two free throws by Delaney made it six with 1: 18 left.

That's when Profit pulled the Terrapins back in the game single-handedly. First, he hit a three from about 20 feet on the left side with 54 seconds left. Then, after Harris missed for the Cougars and time running down, Profit pulled up and shot from 23 feet on the left side. It fell at the buzzer, tying the game at 33.

Profit pumped his arms as Maryland, seemingly on the verge of getting blown out in the first half, had taken the momentum. Profit finished the half with 14 points, including 12 of Maryland's last 15.

Leading 38-35 in the second half, Booth started picking up fouls and the Terrapins began falling apart.

The result was a 12-0 run by the Cougars that saw Booth get called for four fouls in less than 6 1/2 minutes. Booth took a seat, Maryland's season and his college career were ticking away.

After a dunk follow by Rodney Conner gave the Charleston a 49-40 lead with 11: 49 to go, Elliott rebounded his own miss to cut the deficit to seven. A drive by Stokes after two missed free throws by Harris made it five.

But that was as close as the Terrapins would get.

"It's a big disappointment, but give College of Charleston a lot of credit," Booth said. "They played great. It definitely hurts, being the last time around. When you go to college, you want to win the national championship and that won't happen. But I'm proud of this team and the way they played all year."

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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