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' 25 lead bid from 16-point Ky. hole

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

NEW YORK -- This time, the comeback fell short. Maryland overcame a 17-point deficit against Tulane to reach the semifinals of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament. The 24th-ranked Terps fell behind No. 11 Kentucky by 16 last night at Madison Square Garden, but they had three chances to lead and as many to tie before they finally fell short, 61-58.

Maryland wasn't done until Juan Dixon's 30-footer from the left wing rimmed out in the final second.

Terence Morris, the Preseason All-America forward, had a big night against Kentucky's huge front line, as he collected 25 points. Dixon, the Terps' other big offensive threat, suffered through a rough shooting night, and his misery was compounded by the finish. Hounded all night by Desmond Allison, Dixon was 3-for-17 from the field.

"It felt good when it left my hand," Dixon said. "I had open looks all night, but I didn't knock them down. If we make one or two more shots, we win the game."

Kentucky, which got 21 points from Tayshaun Prince, had some poor free-throw shooting in the second half (15-for-27) that abetted Maryland's comeback.

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. Kentucky and No. 8 Arizona will meet in the championship game at 9.

Maryland began a demanding seven-game, 18-day stretch last night, and it will conclude Dec. 11 at Cole against Kentucky (3-0). By then, Maryland hopes to find the antidote to a 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.

Left for the consolation game scrap heap after a first half in which it made just 34.4 percent of its field-goal attempts and committed 13 turnovers, many of them unforced, Maryland scored the first eight points after the break and had three chances to lead in the last nine minutes.

Kentucky made just five of its 25 shots in the second half as Maryland stuck with its standard man-to-man defense and sagged into the middle.

The Terps' perimeter game was tested by the long arms of Kentucky, but Morris floated outside for three three-pointers. The last came with less than 10 minutes left, and got Maryland within 51-48. Freshman point guard Steve Blake stripped Saul Smith, his counterpart, at the end 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 left, 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 and went stone cold.

Down 57-50 heading into the last three minutes, the Terps got a jumper on the right wing from Lonny 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 had the ball in the right hands, as it needed a three to force overtime, but Morris missed from the left side with 1: 26 left and Dixon on the right with 21 seconds remaining. Jamaal Magloire made one of two free throws with 7.4 seconds left, and Dixon hustled the miss upcourt and squared up for a chance that had a crowd of 10,762 howling, only to miss.

Maryland had chances to go ahead on a Dixon three with 8: 22 left. It turned over two more chances to get its first lead.

Coach Gary Williams uses an eight-man rotation that includes three freshmen. Besides being their first college game away from Cole Field House, it also happened to be their first on national television, and their first loss.

Round one of the Maryland-Kentucky home-and-away series came last December at Rupp Arena, where Magloire intimidated Maryland with six blocked shots and the Wildcats blew by the Terps' pressure in a 12-point victory.

This year, Kentucky had struggled with its outside shot in its first two tournament wins, over Penn and Utah, but an up-tempo test from the Terps loosened up the Wildcats. Saul Smith hit an open three on their opening possession, and the Wildcats never trailed.

An officiating crew from the Big East let them play, and Maryland seemed shocked by the hands-on defensive work of Kentucky.

Jules Camara, a 6-foot-11 forward who looks down on Morris, pushed him away from the paint early. Desmond Allison was in Dixon's jersey from the start, and after blocking the sophomore guard's first shot of the game, a jumper from the left wing, said "don't bring that [stuff] in here tonight."

Dixon, Maryland's leading scorer through two games with a 22.0 average, went 0-for-6 in the first half.

Kentucky had a 12-4 lead after five minutes, before the Terps got some transition chances and Morris' three-pointer brought them within 20-17 with 10: 13 left in the first half. Blake's second-chance basket got the Terps within 23-19, but Kentucky started a 17-5 run with eight straight points.

Prince's free throws off a transition chance built the Wildcats' lead to 40-24 with 3: 24 left in the half while maintaining an impenetrable blue and white wall when Maryland had the ball.

Between Danny Miller's three and one by Morris with 1: 53 left, the Terps went four minutes without a point. Six possessions resulted in four turnovers and two blocked shots. Kentucky wasn't exactly prospering at its end, but Maryland's inability to get good looks against a Wildcats' zone proved telling, as Maryland was a dismal 11-for-32 from the field in the first half.

Maryland's frustration mounted on two steals by Morris. After both, the Preseason All-American fumbled the ball away.

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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