1-point loss leaves UM 0-3 in ACC

Ga. Tech wins, 69-68

Dixon has 31, but can't get off a shot at end

Williams: `Very frustrating'

Terps' league start worst since '95-96

January 16, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Even an encounter with Georgia Tech wasn't enough to cure what is ailing Maryland.

The Terps went south last night in search of their eighth straight win over the Yellow Jackets and their fourth in a row at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. No. 18 Maryland fell to 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, however, as a strong start gave way to an indecisive finish and a 69-68 loss.

"We got off to a good start, played well for about the first 10 minutes, then we quit executing," coach Gary Williams said. "It's very frustrating. We're close. We did not play well enough to win this game."

The Terps (11-5, 0-3) trailed for most of the second half, but had a chance to win it when Juan Dixon blocked Sean Fein's shot with eight seconds left. Out of timeouts, point guard Steve Blake backed it out with four seconds left and passed to Dixon.

The shooting guard had a career-high 31 points, but he was blanketed and passed to the right corner just before the final buzzer.

"In that situation, we've got to get a shot off," said Dixon, a sophomore from Calvert Hall. "I don't know if I was open or not, but we've got to get a shot off. That's the whole thing. I didn't do it."

Maryland's offensive problems began long before that.

ACC preseason Player of the Year Terence Morris and center Lonny Baxter, who played a foul-plagued 20 minutes, were limited to one basket apiece in the second half. The Yellow Jackets' Alvin Jones and Jason Collier denied the Terps on the rare occasions they established inside position, so Dixon carried Maryland.

"We're a lot quicker than they are," said Morris, who was limited to 11 points, six below his average. "We fell into a trap. We did what they wanted us to."

Morris has been a marked man in the ACC, where Maryland has lost two games that hung in the balance on the Terps' final possession. What's wrong with the junior forward from Frederick?

"I don't know," Williams said. "I really don't know. I have a lot of thoughts, but I keep them to myself."

Hurt by slow starts in their previous ACC games, Maryland finally came out on fire and led 16-5 in the fifth minute. Georgia Tech (8-7, 1-2) didn't lose its cool, outscored the Terps 23-6 over the last five minutes of the first half and the first six of the second, and never trailed over the last 17 minutes.

The lead grew to 47-41 before Morris ended a Maryland drought of nearly five minutes with a spinning move from the left side. Dixon, who struggled mightily during that scoreless stretch, kept attacking the basket and had a hand in every Maryland point over a span of seven minutes.

Dixon got Maryland within a basket six times in that span, once on a feed to Baxter and the others on an assortment of open-court moves that produced either a basket or free throws. Down 62-60, Dixon passed to an open Drew Nicholas in the left corner, but the freshman guard was unable to make a three-point attempt.

Maryland had three more chances to take the lead in the next minute, and wasted them all. Tony Akins' unguarded three-pointer and a Collier dunk gave Georgia Tech two leads of five points, the latter at 67-62, but Collier fouled out on a three-point attempt by Morris with 1: 01 remaining.

In Morris' only trip to the foul line -- and the frontcourt's only free throws of the second half -- Morris made all three attempts. Fein made two free throws with 53.3 seconds left, but Danny Miller came back with a clutch three from the right wing 10 seconds later.

Dixon blocked Fein with eight seconds left and the shot clock about to expire. The Terps had taken their last timeout with 8: 10 remaining, and they were unable -- or unwilling -- to try a shot.

"We had an open look [by Blake] and didn't take it," Williams said. "If he [Blake] has that opportunity again, he'll take it to the hole."

It was Georgia Tech's first win in five tries against Top 25 teams. The Yellow Jackets had not played at home since Jan. 2, as they acquiesced in the second half of losses against Kentucky in Louisville, and at Virginia and Duke.

"Finally, something good has happened to us, and it's a wonderful feeling," said Cremins, whose job security is in question.

Maryland spotted Georgia Tech a basket on the game's opening possession, then went on what should have been a therapeutic 16-3 run that included 7-for-9 shooting. The Terps, however, shot 33.3 percent (19-57) the rest of the way.

They had a 35-24 lead with five minutes left in the first half, and couldn't protect it.

Maryland's last 0-3 start in the ACC came in 1995-96, when it nonetheless settled down and returned to the NCAA tournament.

"We're real disappointed," Dixon said. "We've got to be able to fix it."

NOTES: It was Cremins' 349th win in his 19 seasons at Georgia Tech, moving him past former Maryland boss Lefty Driesell and into third place in all-time ACC coaching wins, behind only former North Carolina leader Dean Smith and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

ACC standings

Conference Overall

School W-L Pct. W-L Pct.

Duke 3-0 1.000 12-2 .857

Florida St . 2-0 1.000 7-6 .538

Wake Forest 2-1 .667 11-4 .733

N. Carolina 2-1 .667 11-6 .647

Virginia 2-2 .500 11-5 .688

N.C. State 1-1 .500 11-2 .846

Georgia Tech 1-2 .333 8-7 .533

Maryland 0-3 .000 11-5 .688

Clemson 0-4 .000 6-10 .375

Yesterday's results

Georgia Tech 69, Maryland 68

UCLA 71, North Carolina 68

Virginia 98, Clemson 91

Today's games

W. Forest at N.C. State, 1: 30 p.m.

Duke at Florida State, 4 p.m.

Next for Maryland

Opponent: Wake Forest

Record: 2-1 ACC, 11-4 overall

Site: Cole Field House, College Park

When: Wednesday, 9 p.m.

TV: ESPN

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