First-round KO for Terps

23-4 run to open game staggers Iona, sends UM to 2nd round, 74-59

'Wanted to come out strong'

Morris, Holden provide punch with Miller out

Ncaa Tournament

March 17, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Miller remained on injured reserve, but Maryland got well in the first round of the NCAA tournament last night.

Third-seeded in the Midwest Region, the Terps were en route to a first-class annihilation of Iona at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, before they eased up and recorded a 74-59 victory. Freshman Tahj Holden started in place of Miller, while Terence Morris moved to the wing and prospered with one of the best postseason performances of his career.

Maryland (25-9) will meet the winner of last night's UCLA-Ball State matchup tomorrow (approximately 8: 30), and Miller talked as if he would be available. The sophomore forward sprained his left ankle Sunday in the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Miller played only nine minutes in that 13-point loss to No. 1 Duke, when Maryland tried to implement a new rotation at halftime. Two days of practice with a different look was more than enough to manhandle 14th-seeded Iona, as the Terps led 23-4 after eight minutes and enjoyed a 60-32 bulge with 10 minutes remaining.

Like so many favorites who won their first-round games, Maryland acquiesced after acquiring a big lead, as they went nearly five minutes without a point and led coach Gary Williams to remark on how a team that doesn't have a scholarship senior also lacks a killer instinct.

"We saw that Kentucky had a tough time earlier today, and we wanted to come out strong," all-ACC guard Juan Dixon said. "We got kind of sloppy and lazy at the end, but we recovered and won the game."

Tariq Kirksay, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, had a game-high 24 points, but only four in the first half, when the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Holden roughed him up. The Terps also made judicious use of their 3-2 zone after they fell into early foul trouble, as the sight of the 6-9 Morris out top contributed to the Gaels' 24.1 percent (7-29) shooting in the first half.

"The game plan was to front him [Kirksay] in the post," Holden said. "All I tried to do was stay in front of him. If he doesn't have the ball, he can't score. I tried to make my job easy. He's a good forward, but I consider myself a good defender."

In 13 previous postseason games, Morris had averaged 11.3 points. He had postseason career highs of 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 12 rebounds, and limited the Gaels' other scoring threat, Dyree Wilson, to eight points on 2-for-6 shooting.

"I came in with one of my goals as just being aggressive," Morris said. "It felt good to feed off my teammates in the first half."

Williams said the key to Morris handling the small forward spot was Holden's ability, which allowed Morris to move there.

"It's been a distraction with Danny, and it wasn't until today that we knew he wouldn't play" Williams said. "Tahj stepping in was the key. Terence is pretty flexible, but the key was, who was going to step in for Danny. Tahj did a very good job."

Holden didn't have an impressive statistical line, but he did play a career-high 30 minutes. Dixon again bettered his average with a quiet 20 points; Lonny Baxter chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds and freshman point guard Steve Blake finished with seven of the Terps' 21 turnovers, but got them going early.

Iona (20-11) banked its upset bid on its ability to score in bunches, but Maryland had runs of 12-0, 11-0 and 9-0.

The Terps spotted the Gaels the first basket, then reeled off 12 straight points in a little over two minutes. Iona coach Jeff Ruland shed his blazer and switched up defenses in an attempt to slow Maryland, which prospered with 12 second-chance points in the early going.

Maryland liked that first run so much, it nearly duplicated it after Iona's second basket, as the Terps scored another 11 unanswered points and took a commanding 23-4 lead on a three-pointer by Morris from the left wing against a soft zone.

The champions of the MAAC came out as cold as the chilly Minnesota weather -- they missed 14 of their first 16 shots -- but finally went on an 8-0 spurt. The Gaels got within single digits once, when Kirksay scored off a feed from Jason Young, but Maryland moved its lead back up to 15 points and had a 38-25 cushion at the half.

Maryland's depth was tested by foul trouble, as Baxter, Blake and Dixon were all hit with their second before the 15-minute mark, but even without Miller, the Terps had too much. A 9-0 run early in the second half that featured a runaway dunk by Morris extended the lead to 48-27, and Dixon's jumper off the dribble made it 60-32 with 10: 29 left.

That's when the Terps bogged down and stopped attacking the basket.

"We played some great minutes," Williams said. "We're young enough that we screw up too."

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