Terps falter in OT, lose first, 76-72 Hot-shooting Profit can't hit at end in loss to No. 7 South Carolina

UM shoots 40% from field

Teams' guard play is major difference

November 15, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was nearly an hour after the game, but as Maryland forward Laron Profit walked toward the locker room -- his uniform bloodied and eight fresh stitches above his left eye -- he was still muttering to himself.

It did not matter to him that the Terrapins would not have even been in the game at the end if not for his heroics. All Profit could think about was the shot that didn't fall.

With his team trailing by two points in the final seconds of overtime, Profit was wide-open on a potentially game-winning attempt. But his shot didn't even draw iron, and the Terrapins went on to lose to seventh-ranked South Carolina, 76-72, last night in their season opener in the Black Coaches Association Classic at the Target Center.

Though Profit missed his shot, South Carolina guard Melvin Watson made two big ones. Watson banked in a 26-foot three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force the overtime, and hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 10 seconds left in OT -- after Profit had given Maryland a one-point lead with a JTC three-pointer -- to lead South Carolina to the win.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "This is one game, whether you win or lose, that you have to go from here. We found out some things tonight that we didn't do well. We have to get better at it."

There were several areas in which Maryland lost this game after leading by as many as 11 points in the first quarter (as an experimental game, the teams played four 10-minute quarters and had a 40-second shot clock). A Williams-coached team usually has an edge in games with pressure plays, but that wasn't the case last night.

Twice in the last two minutes of overtime, the Terrapins forced South Carolina guard B.J. McKie to take tough shots, only to see forward William Gallman glide in for a tip-in and a layup.

Earlier in the overtime, Maryland's 7-foot center, Mike Mardesich, had the inside position on a missed South Carolina field goal, only to have it snatched from his hands by the Gamecocks' 6-foot-5 freshman forward, Antonio Grant, who scored on a layup and converted a three-point play after getting fouled.

"Had we got to the loose balls, it would have been different," said Maryland center Obinna Ekezie, who fouled out with 3: 35 left in overtime, having only played 26 minutes. "We could have played better."

Maryland could have shot the ball better, hitting just 40.0 percent for the game. Point guard Terrell Stokes (3-for-6 from the field) was the only Maryland starter to hit at least half of his shots. The Terrapins also struggled at the free-throw line, hitting 15 of 24.

But perhaps the major difference in the game was the play of the guards, an area that Maryland will have to address this season.

When South Carolina had the ball, the backcourt of McKie and Watson constantly penetrated the lane and, even though they only had four assists between them, they either scored or drew fouls (McKie attempted a team-high 12 free throws, hitting 10).

On Maryland's offensive possessions, the guards mostly swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other and rarely broke down the defense, which would have forced South Carolina to react.

"They penetrated more, they created more and that helped them," said Maryland guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, who had eight points, three assists and a team-high five turnovers.

Williams said he would like to go with a 10-man rotation this season, but he went about eight deep last night, despite the foul trouble. With Ekezie in foul trouble, Mardesich played 19 minutes and scored five points. Freshman forward Terence Morris hit just one of five shots in his 22 minutes, but he did have three of Maryland's 14 blocks (Ekezie had five).

All of those shortcomings might not have been critical if not for the play of Watson, who had 17 points. With 58 seconds left in regulation, Watson picked up a loose ball and, at the shot-clock buzzer, banked in a three-pointer from about 27 feet that tied the game at 62 and forced the overtime.

"I was just trying to get it to the rim," Watson said.

The shot in overtime came with South Carolina trailing, 72-71. The Terrapins were giving Watson a little space, attempting to take away his penetration. The defensive move worked, but Watson pulled up and hit his shot with 10 seconds left for a 74-72 lead.

Profit's shots in overtime were more clutch than luck -- a short jumper in the lane with 1: 16 left that tied the game at 69 and then a three-pointer from the corner he calmly sank with 30 seconds left that gave Maryland a 72-71 lead.

But on the shot that counted, Profit never got set. He tried to curl, catch the pass from Stokes and launch the shot with the clock running out. Of all the shots he took, that's the one the Terps needed.

"I always want to take the last shot, and if you're asked to take the last shot, you have to make it," Profit said. "I just missed, that's the bottom line. It was perfect execution, and there are no excuses. That's the one that people are going to remember you by."

Pub Date: 11/15/97

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