Dream rematch for Terps, Heels Good night's sleep key to semifinal victory?


March 07, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina forward Ademola Okulaja was talking about today's semifinal against Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and he concluded his thoughts by saying, "We have to get a good night's sleep."

Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes presumably felt the same.

The junior starters broke curfew after the quarterfinals last year, and Profit admitted earlier this week that he took North Carolina State, Maryland's opponent in the 1997 semifinals, lightly. The .. Wolfpack beat the Terps, 65-58. He promised to be on his best behavior this weekend, and his focus and that of all the Terps should be aided by another match with the Tar Heels.

The talk around North Carolina (28-3) is about avenging all three of its regular-season losses. Yesterday the Tar Heels ran past N.C. State, which shocked them two weeks ago in Chapel Hill. They hope their opponent in tomorrow's final is Duke, which came back on them last Saturday in Durham.

Maryland beat then-No. 1 North Carolina, 89-83, in overtime Jan. 14. The Tar Heels took the rematch at the Smith Center three weeks ago, as Maryland went cold at the end of the first half and lost 85-67. Obinna Ekezie and Rodney Elliott were a combined 4-for-19 from the field in that game.

"The same thing that happened today happened then," sophomore point guard Ed Cota said. "Once we got our defense going, we won."

Maryland is in the semifinals for the fourth straight season, the first time the Terps have achieved that level of consistency since 1978-81. While they've become a semi regular, they haven't advanced to the championship game since they won it in 1984. That was the last time the Tar Heels lost in the semifinals, as they have won 10 straight in that round.

Harpring's farewell

Matt Harpring, Georgia Tech's senior forward who was a three-time ACC all-star, was shut down in all three games against Maryland this season. He still figures to make some All-American teams, and he was teary-eyed when he got a standing ovation when he was pulled with 1: 06 left yesterday.

"That was a great honor," Harpring said. "They weren't just Georgia Tech fans. It was people from Clemson and Duke and the other schools, too."

He won't get as much notice here, but Matt Kovarik does have a following. Maryland's senior reserve guard is from Greensboro, and he played at Grimsley High, where the Terps practiced Thursday. He played a quiet but solid 13 minutes yesterday, and helped Stokes be rested and efficient.

Et cetera

Who does Maryland want to play in the NCAA tournament? Georgia Tech. The Terps went 3-0 against the Yellow Jackets, the past two by 12 and 18 points. Harpring had 13 baskets against Maryland this season, as many as freshman Terence Morris had against the Yellow Jackets, in 44 minutes no less. Morris is shooting 69.2 percent from the field in the past five games. The last of Maryland's eight three-pointers came from Atman Smith, a second-year walk-on from Dunbar High. It was his first ever three for Maryland.

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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