Terps foul up semifinal test UM blows 9-point lead, lets Carolina escape in overtime, 83-73

March 08, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It was reported incorrectly in yesterday's editions that referees disallowed a substitution by University of Maryland coach Gary Williams near the end of regulation time in Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament semifinal against North Carolina. In fact, officials allowed the substitution.

The Sun regrets the error.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- That sound you heard around 3: 30 p.m. yesterday was Maryland coughing up what would have been an extremely tasty victory over No. 4 North Carolina.

Coach Gary Williams said that his Terps should feel good about themselves, and that they'll head into the NCAA tournament playing their best basketball of the season. All true, and all slightly trite after No. 21 Maryland wasted a superb 38 minutes and lost, 83-73, in overtime to the Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals.


"Unbelievable," junior forward Laron Profit said after the Terps ended a four-game winning streak and fell for the fourth straight time in the tournament's semifinals. "The stuff he [Williams] said is right, but if you're a competitor, you say to yourself that we had this game won. We outplayed them for 40 minutes. They outplayed us for five."

Profit hid under a towel during the protracted last four seconds of regulation. He fouled Shammond Williams, whose free throws got the Tar Heels into overtime, but the fact remains that the Terps already had blown a nine-point lead with 10 minutes to play.

Powered by junior center Obinna Ekezie, who took on everyone from teammates to a likely Player of the Year to the North Carolina fans, Maryland (19-10) was still up 66-62 with 1: 58 left, but North Carolina (29-3) scored the final four points of regulation and first six of overtime.

The loss was as galling as any the Terps have had against the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament, and that's saying something, considering that it was the sixth straight tournament win for North Carolina over Maryland, a streak that started in 1987.

The Tar Heels will meet Duke in today's championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum, and both should be No. 1 seeds when the NCAA field is announced tonight. The Terps could still wind up as high as a No. 3, and if they can defend and run their offense like they did for most of their stay here, it shouldn't be a short postseason.

Maryland thrived for most of this game of basketbrawl, which at one point in the first half sent senior forward Rodney Elliott to the bench to patch up a nasty gash above his left eye. Ekezie outplayed junior forward Antawn Jamison, who limped off with 15 points, eight below his average, and a groin injury that wasn't there when the game began.

The Terps had a 53-44 bulge with 9: 42 left, but then their shooters cooled off and North Carolina went on top with a 16-6 run that lasted six minutes. An angry Ekezie helped the Terps regain the lead, but the Tar Heels got the last four points in regulation at the free-throw line, where Maryland tightened up and missed six of its last seven.

The only thing that worked for the Terps at the end was Gary Williams' attempt to ice North Carolina's Shammond Williams, as Maryland was fortunate just to get to overtime.

Shammond Williams, the tournament MVP last year, scored 14 of his 25 in the last seven minutes. He made two free throws with 1: 44 left that cut the difference to 66-64, and it stayed there until he got the ball on the right wing in the waning seconds. He pump-faked Profit, the point man in a 3-2 zone, and drew contact with a lean to the left.

Whistle. Foul on Profit. Three free throws, and a chance to end right there the latest chapter in the thick book titled North Carolina Comebacks. Williams calmly made the first two, but then Maryland called a full timeout, and its coach tried some gamesmanship at the scorer's table.

After the break, Gary Williams tried to sub Terence Morris for Matt Kovarik, who had come in when Profit fouled out. It took the officiating crew several minutes to sort out the matter, and it wasn't allowed. The North Carolina shooter stood at midcourt and smiled.

"I was trying to stay calm," the Tar Heels guard said. "I knew what he [Williams] was doing. The referee knew what he was doing. Mr. [Duke] Edsall told me that he knew what he was doing."

It worked, as Williams was short on the free throw. The Terps turned the ball over on the in-bounds pass, however, and the sloppiness carried over into overtime, when Williams converted an unforced turnover by Morris into a transition basket and the lead quickly ballooned to 75-69.

End of game, and end of Maryland's attempt to make the ACC final for the first time since 1984, the last time the Terps won it.

The effort centered on Ekezie's defense on Jamison, who appeared healthy when the game started but was limping by the end. That wrestling match was complemented by the Terps' offense, which prospered until everyone's jump shot disappeared at the same time.

"I thought we had some pretty good looks," Williams said. "Whether we were tired or it was the situation, we missed shots that we made the last two weeks."

Elliott and senior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius started out like they were auditioning for the NBA, but then lost their touch. Elliott led the Terps with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but didn't score in the last 16 minutes. Jasikevicius finished with 15, but none in the last 13 minutes.

Elliott missed two free throws with 9: 11 left that coincided with the start of the Tar Heels' rally, and he had an air ball from deep on the left side with 20 seconds left. Maryland's previous possession saw Profit come off a screen near the free-throw line, and miss an open 18-footer.

There was disgust in the locker room, but no shame.

"We put up such a great effort," Ekezie said. "We wanted to win this tournament, but we've got a bigger one to play in."

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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