UM faces a rival in greenness

Terps try to rebound against Notre Dame

November 26, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Late Wednesday night, a few minutes after Juan Dixon had missed the biggest shot of his blossoming college basketball career, Maryland's sophomore guard was already thinking about the next chance.

"We've got to win the next one," Dixon said. "We've got to go home with at least one win."

That's the mission for No. 24 Maryland tonight at 6: 30 in the third-place game of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden, where the opponent will be Notre Dame, a team nearly as green in experience as Maryland.

The Terps gained some seasoning in the semifinals, but their second big comeback of the young season came up short against Kentucky.

No. 8 Arizona will meet No. 11 Kentucky in the championship game at 9.

The Maryland-Notre Dame game matches possibly the best power forwards in the nation, as the Fighting Irish are as proud of the play of 6-foot-10 Troy Murphy as Terps fans are of homegrown favorite Terence Morris.

Coach Gary Williams is counting on another consistent game from preseason All-American Morris. He didn't sound concerned about Dixon regaining his shooting stroke after a 3-for-17 clunker in which he didn't make a jumper, but he's worried about production from the small-forward spot and erratic play at the start.

For the second time in three games, 6-foot-8 Danny Miller was held to one rebound, and Maryland had a horrendous beginning. Deficiencies that were overcome against Tulane in the Preseason NIT semifinals were not against Kentucky, which held off the Terps, 61-58, when Dixon's three-pointer at the buzzer bounced away.

Maryland (3-1) trailed by as many as 16 points against Kentucky, and, against Tulane, it fell behind by 17 in the first seven minutes.

"You have to learn as a group how to approach each game, how to be ready to go when the referee throws the ball up," Williams said.

"Against good teams, you can't have dead periods. It's something you can only talk about. It's not like we can go practice a play or something like that. We were a little nervous."

And as for Miller, whose one rebound gave him 11 in the Terps' first four games?

"That's something only a player can answer," Williams said. "That three [small forward] spot is a key rebounding spot and we're not getting enough rebounding out of it right now.

"One rebound in 29 minutes [24, actually], I don't care who you're playing. Danny played better defensively in the second half, but he's still not as aggressive as he was at the end of last year."

Kentucky's bench outscored Maryland's, 25-4. The Terps were limited to nine free throws, but Notre Dame got even less respect going to the basket in its 76-60 loss to Arizona, in which the Fighting Irish were 3-for-6 at the line.

Notre Dame's starting five did not attempt a foul shot.

"I sure hope we come out really mad [tonight]," first-year Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty said.

Doherty, who played alongside Michael Jordan on North Carolina's 1982 NCAA championship team, is among the brat-pack members who have been hired for major conference jobs recently.

Williams will work against Iowa's Steve Alford next Tuesday at Baltimore Arena, and could face Seton Hall's Tommy Amaker in the second night of the BB&T Classic on Dec. 5.

Doherty's debut was a 59-57 victory over Ohio State, which had been the favorite in this 16-team tournament.

The Fighting Irish (3-1) last went to the NCAA tournament in 1990, and the rebuilding job has centered around Murphy, a left-handed banger who has been averaging 27.5 points and 10.3 rebounds.

"He's legitimate," Williams said of Murphy. "He can go inside and outside. He's a lot quicker than he appears to be. He's an honest 6-10, yet he can go outside and shoot.

NOTES: The Arizona-Kentucky final is a rematch of the 1997 NCAA tournament championship, when the Pac-10 Conference Wildcats denied the defending champions in Rick Pitino's final college game. Maryland last played Notre Dame in 1988, when the Terps won by three. Dixon's field-goal percentage plummeted from .581 to .466 after the 3-for-17 effort in the Kentucky game, and Williams faulted his early shot selection. Morris is averaging 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. The Kentucky defeat was the Terps' first regular-season loss since they were crushed by Duke last Feb. 3.

Next for Terps

Opponent: Notre Dame

What: Preseason NIT third-place game

When: Tonight, 6: 30

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

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