For one day, Terps show they belong

December 09, 1997|By Dick Jerardi | Dick Jerardi,PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

WASHINGTON -- Maryland was trying to prove it belonged. Kansas proves that every time it plays. The Terrapins had already taken nationally ranked South Carolina and Clemson to overtime and lost. The No. 2 Jayhawks had been making their usual early-season tour and, typically, won every game.

So, when these teams came down the stretch in the final minutes of a wide-open, in-your-face, early December game at the MCI Center on Sunday afternoon, Kansas, which had overcome a 15-point, second-half deficit, figured to win. So much for accepted wisdom.

Maryland made just enough plays in the final minutes, got a favorable call in the final seconds and held on to upset the Jayhawks, 86-83, in the first round of the Franklin National Bank Classic.

"When you talk about who plays the most intense in the country, you always hear Kansas' name in the top two or three," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.

And if you talk top two or three intense coaches, you talk Gary Williams. He sent his team out to pressure Kansas like it is rarely pressured. And the Terps (4-2) forced the Jayhawks into 16 first-half turnovers, shot 55.6 percent and led 54-41 at the break.

"That's the best 20 minutes we've played in a long time," Williams said.

Kansas (8-1) had every reason to let this one go. The Jayhawks, already winners of the Preseason NIT and conquerors of Arizona last Tuesday in the Great Eight Classic, have hardly had a chance to practice. Forward Paul Pierce was playing on a very sore ankle. But Kansas does not go quietly.

The Jayhawks made run after run at Maryland, but didn't get it tied until the game's 37th minute. When Rodney Elliott (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Laron Profit (13 points, six steals) fouled out for Maryland, the Terps, playing with two freshmen and three guards, had reason to let it go. They had already blown a late lead to South Carolina and let a four-point lead disappear in the final minute Thursday at Clemson before going scoreless in overtime.

But the Terps made seven of eight foul shots in the final minutes. Pierce (26 points) fouled out and Raef LaFrentz (24 points, 16 rebounds) couldn't win it by himself. Maryland was too balanced with vastly improved center Obinna Ekezie (16 points, nine rebounds) and the savvy Sarunas Jasikevicius (21 points).

Still, Kansas almost got one final chance. Trailing 84-83 with 3.8 seconds left, Kansas forced Maryland to make a tough inbounds pass under its basket. Terrell Stokes caught the ball near the sideline and stepped over the line. Referee Ted Valentine signaled Kansas ball with 1.9 seconds left. A split second later, referee Jim Burr came streaking out of the backcourt and called a foul on Kansas' Ryan Robertson for pushing Stokes out of bounds.

Stokes made both foul shots. The Jayhawks' Billy Thomas, who came into the game shooting 24-for-53 from the arc, took a 50-foot pass and threw up a 40-footer at the buzzer. It was just short, ending an 0-for-9 nightmare from the arc for Kansas' best long-range shooter.

"[Burr] said the youngster pushed him out," Kansas coach Roy Williams said of the controversial call.

Well? Replays seemed to suggest otherwise, but Williams knows this is a long season that's about March, not December.

"I'd take that officiating crew any time," he said. "I'm sure that Jim Burr thought he pushed him out. My guess is that if he tried to make that call off the replay, maybe he doesn't make it."

But Williams said he had no complaints.

"The best basketball team won today," Roy Williams said.

For that, Gary Williams was thankful.

"We felt we were close to playing with the big boys," Gary Williams said. "It's a credit to Kansas that this is so important to us."

Kansas is one of the standards in college basketball. Maryland almost has always been just one step below. For one day, the Terps got to admire the view from the top step.

Pub Date: 12/09/97

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