In final analysis, Terps simply weren't good enough

March 20, 1998|By JOHN EISENBERG

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Maryland Terrapins' dream was real for a couple of minutes in the second half last night at the Arrowhead Pond.

Their dream of upsetting Arizona in the NCAA West Regional semifinals was as real as a one-point game.

That's how close the Terps were to the Wildcats with 10 minutes to play, after trailing by 13 just seven minutes earlier.

But the Wildcats didn't let the dream last long.

They responded to the Terps' challenge in the classic style of a defending national champion, scoring nine straight points and 22 of the next 33 to pull away.

In the end, the Terps just weren't good enough.

If they were going to pull off an upset, they needed to play one of their best games and force Arizona into an off night.

They didn't do it.

The Wildcats were in control from the beginning thanks to their superior quickness and shooting.

That quickness took the Terps out of the offensive rhythm that had carried them this far, disrupting their favorite patterns and plays. The result was a steady drip of forced passes, turnovers and poor shots, and no production whatsoever from Obinna Ekezie and Sarunas Jasikevicius, two key elements of their offense.

An added problem was foul trouble on the Terps' big men. Ekezie drew two quick fouls and was never a factor after that. Rodney Elliott fouled out with 8: 19 to play after scoring 16 points. The Terps wound up having to use freshman Mike Mardesich far more than they wanted.

With the Wildcats putting what amounted to an NBA team on the floor -- Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson all probably will play for pay next season -- the Terps couldn't win with freshmen.

It was, in the end, a typical game between a team thrilled to make the Sweet 16 and a team with real designs on a national title.

The Terps competed hard, scrapped for baskets and put together a terrific rally in the second half, but they couldn't sustain it.

Basically, it took too much out of them to come back from a horrific first half in which they shot 34 percent and committed 11 turnovers.

The Terps were ice cold from the beginning, missing 13 of their first 16 shots and 20 of their first 26 as they tried to adjust to Arizona's quickness.

The Wildcats jumped out to leads of 10-3, 19-9 and 29-18. They shoved it in the Terps' faces in one sequence late in the first half. After Dickerson slapped away one of the Terps' signature alley-oop lobs intended for Profit, the Wildcats came down and Bibby fed Davidson a similar alley-oop lob for a dunk.

With a nine-point lead at halftime that grew to 13 early in the second half, the Wildcats seemed in control.

The Terps put on a rally, though. Profit hit a three-pointer, then scored inside and was fouled. A three-pointer from Terrell Stokes cut the lead to four and a jumper from Elliott cut it to three.

Stokes shot a three-pointer to tie with 11: 15 left, but it clanged off the rim.

The Terps pulled within one point at 57-56 on another Stokes jumper, but then there was a key period in which they didn't score and lost control.

On successive possessions, Elliott missed a jumper, Jasikevicius missed a three-pointer, Terrence Morris missed a three-pointer and Profit lost a ball out of bounds after a pass from Jasikevicius.

That was four straight possessions without a basket, in which time the Wildcats scored seven points to build their lead back to eight.

The Wildcats' baskets came on a Dickerson drive, a Simon jumper in traffic and a left-handed driving basket by Dickerson.

Elliott fouled out going for a rebound on the Terps' next series -- their fifth in a row without a point -- and the Wildcats' A. J. Bramlett scored on a dunk at the other end.

Suddenly, the lead was back to 10 with 7: 45 left and the Terps were in big trouble.

They got the margin back down to five with four minutes left, but Simon took care of that with two three-pointers that sent the crowd heading for the exits.

The Terps had fought hard and put on a tough show, but in the end, they just weren't good enough.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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