Terps claw back, lose to Wildcats

After 2nd-half rally, UM can't connect on shots in stretch, 61-58

Dixon 30-footer rims out

Morris helps overcome `nervous' 40-24 start

November 25, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Maryland's youth was exposed early and Kentucky's late, as the Wildcats escaped the semifinals of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament with a 61-58 victory over the Terps last night at Madison Square Garden.

In a tale of two halves, No. 24 Maryland fell behind by 16 points three minutes before the break. The Terps tightened the defensive screws in the second half to force a tie with 6: 35 left, got solid play throughout from Terence Morris and weren't done until Juan Dixon's 30-footer from the left wing rimmed out in the final second.

"If we hit two or three more shots, we win the game," said Dixon, a sophomore guard from Calvert Hall. "It [the game's last shot] felt good when it left my hand, but it rolled out. I had open looks all night, but I didn't knock them down."

The Terps (3-1) will meet Notre Dame, a 76-60 loser to Arizona, in tomorrow's third-place game at 6: 30 p.m. No. 11 Kentucky and No. 8 Arizona will meet in the championship game at 9. Maryland began a demanding seven-game, 18-day stretch, which will conclude Dec. 11 at Cole Field House against Kentucky (3-0).

Maryland was left for the consolation game scrap heap after an opening half in which it made just 34.4 percent of its field-goal attempts, committed 13 turnovers and played some wretched transition defense. It scored the first seven points after the break, had three chances to take the lead midway through the second half and three more to tie it late.

Coach Gary Williams doesn't have a scholarship senior, and he uses an eight-man rotation that includes three freshmen. Besides being their first college basketball game away from Cole, it was also their first on national television, and the Terps were a little dazed as they fell behind 12-4, then 40-24 in the 17th minute.

"We knew we could play with them," Morris said, "but we just came out a little nervous."

Morris had 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Dixon suffered through a 3-for-17 shooting night, but the skinny 6-foot-3 guard somehow hauled down a team-high 11 rebounds. The Terps also got decent games from center Lonny Baxter and freshman guard Steve Blake, who had seven assists and outplayed coach's son Saul Smith.

Kentucky got 21 points from sophomore forward Tayshaun Prince and 17 off the bench from Keith Bogans, a freshman wing out of De Matha.

Maryland overcame a 17-point deficit against Tulane to get here. It took the momentum from Kentucky by shelving an occasional 3-2 zone and toning down its press. Its straight man-to-man defense limited the Wildcats to 5-for-25 shooting in the second half.

"The second half, we held Kentucky down and that gave us a chance," Williams said. "But we really lost it in the first half."

The Terps out-rebounded a mammoth front line that's only slightly shorter than some of the floats that will come down Broadway today in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but the Wildcats did bang inside for 13 offensive rebounds in the second half, which overcame an offensive dip that included 15-for-27 free-throw shooting.

"We're not at the stage of putting teams away, because we're still young," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, who has one senior in his nine-man rotation. "We're wondering which play we're going to run, who's going to get the shot? We seemed a little disorganized."

The Wildcats purred at the start.

An officiating crew from the Big East let the teams play, and the Terps seemed shocked by the hands-on defensive work of Kentucky, which ran by Maryland's pressure and shot over a 3-2 zone en route to a commanding 40-24 lead with 3: 24 left in the first half on a pair of free throws by Prince.

The Terps became the aggressors in the second half, as Dixon busted his way inside for two baskets in the first two minutes. Their perimeter game was tested by the long arms of Kentucky, but Morris floated outside for the last of his three three-pointers with 9: 38 left, which got Maryland within 51-48.

Blake stripped Smith and converted the steal to cut the difference to 51-50 with 9: 12 left.

Morris' tip of a Danny Miller miss knotted the score at 52 with 6: 35 remaining, but they were Maryland's only points during a spell that lasted more than six minutes, when the Terps reverted to their first-half form.

Down 57-52 heading into the last three minutes, the Terps got a jumper on the right wing from Baxter and a pair of free throws by Morris to get within one with 2: 01 left. Blake fouled Prince, who made both free throws with 1: 40 left for a 59-56 lead.

Maryland couldn't come up with the three that would have forced overtime, as Morris missed from the left side with 1: 26 left and Dixon on the right with 21 seconds remaining.

After a free throw by Desmond Allison, Dixon drove the length of the floor for a basket, and got one more chance when Jamaal Magloire missed the second of two free-throw attempts with 7.4 seconds left.

With a crowd of 10,762 howling, Dixon dribbled upcourt against Allison, who had been in his jersey from the opening tip. The shot bounced to the side, as the Terps' effort came up short.

"You get tired making a run like that," Williams said of the Terps' comeback. "It takes a lot out of you. We got a little sloppy and maybe we were tired."

Next for Terps

Opponent: Notre Dame

What: Preseason NIT third-place game

When: Tomorrow, 6: 30 p.m.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

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