Wallflower ways at dance bring on March sadness

March 19, 2000|By JOHN EISENBERG

MINNEAPOLIS -- Give UCLA credit. Sure, absolutely. The Bruins played brilliantly against the Maryland Terrapins in their second-round NCAA tournament game last night at the Metrodome. Made 29 of their first 37 shots. Ran the floor like the Lakers. Went nuts on the Terps, basically.

If the Bruins keep it up, they'll run the table and win the tournament. It doesn't matter whom they play.

But they won't keep it up. No college team can. And you know what? They also won't be lucky enough to keep playing teams that don't show up.

That's what happened last night. No question. As well as the Bruins played, it helped that the Maryland team that beat Duke, finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and drew a No. 3 seed didn't show up.

In its place was a team that played scared, unwisely, lethargically on defense -- just horribly.

No fire, no fight, a frightened look in the eyes.

Awful.

"We didn't play like that all season," Maryland coach Gary Williams said after the 105-70 loss. "We gave them a lot of open shots because we weren't helping [each other] out on defense, but you still have to make the open shots, and to UCLA's credit, they made them."

Ordinarily, there'd be no shame in losing a second-round game to a UCLA team stacked with top recruits, a dangerous team that's gotten hot just in time after a disappointing season in which it almost failed to get an NCAA bid.

But sorry, a 35-point loss as a No. 3 seed is embarrassing for the Terps. Even worse than last season's no-show against St. John's in the Sweet 16.

In that debacle, at least they made a little comeback after falling 26 points behind. Last night, they never stopped playing the Washington Generals to UCLA's Globetrotters.

In the final seconds, the goalie for UCLA's water polo team (a basketball walk-on) went the length of the court for two points, and the crowd cheered as an end-of-the-bench Bruins reserve rolled in a free throw.

Laughs galore. What an ignominious end to a Maryland season that, until last night, was all about exceeding expectations.

Sure, it will still go down as a positive season. The Terps lost four starters, started a freshman and three sophomores and accomplished all sorts of things. Beat Duke at Duke. Made the finals of the ACC tournament for the first time in 16 years. Watched Calvert Hall's Juan Dixon grow from a reserve to a national sensation.

"It was a special team," Williams said. "and it will still be special, even after this."

If Terence Morris returns, the Terps will make the preseason Top 10 polls next season. Even if Morris goes to the NBA, the Terps will have another strong team.

But hey, next year's possibilities were no solace after last night's effort. The Terps were awful when they needed to be good, and that's two years in a row now. Two years of not just losing in the tournament, but getting crushed. Forgetting to show up. Laying an egg.

What's weird is these Terps were nothing if not consistent all season, almost always showing up and putting up a game, even in defeat. Unlike some of Williams' prior teams, which tended to run hot and cold, this one was always pretty warm, occasionally hot and never too cold.

Never a no-show until the worst possible time.

Here's a lasting image: UCLA's Jerome Moiso rising up and swatting a running jumper from Morris into the seats. The bored crowd roars, looking for any reason to avoid heading out into the light snowfall coming down.

Here's another lasting image: The Terps standing around on offense, completely bewildered and stymied by UCLA's 1-3-1 zone defense. As if it were some magical, new concept instead of a basic zone.

And here's one final, lasting image: UCLA scoring on four alley-oop dunks in the first half, as the flat-footed Terps stand around looking baffled by a basic Bruins play that every other UCLA opponent prepares for and successful defends.

Did the Terps even watch tape of the Bruins before stepping onto the court last night?

Sure didn't look like it at times.

That's Terps coach Gary Williams' fault. At the end of one of his best seasons as a coach, he threw in a clunker himself last night. The Terps looked grim and scared before the game, lost and terrified as it slipped away. The coach has to take the blame for that.

Again, give UCLA credit. The Bruins shot 72.4 percent in the first half and 62.5 percent for the game. That's Villanova against Georgetown.

How about point guard Earl Watson backing up and tossing in three-pointers until he's almost in the seats?

"I don't know if anyone could have beaten UCLA tonight," Morris said.

"I looked at the scoreboard [with UCLA up 36] and I thought, `Wow,' " UCLA's Jason Kapono said.

When the Bruins were 13-11 a few weeks ago, there was talk UCLA coach Steve Lavin might lose his job. Then they beat top-ranked Stanford and won six straight games to earn an NCAA bid, and beat Ball State in a sluggish first-round game Thursday night, setting up last night's second-rounder.

A good game on paper. A prime-time special.

But only one team showed up.

Bracket blowout

Yesterday's loss to UCLA tied the worst by Maryland in an NCAA tournament game:

Year Margin Opponent Site Result

2000 35 UCLA Minneapolis L, 105-70

1981 35 Indiana Dayton, Ohio L, 99-64

1973 14 Providence Charlotte, N.C. L, 103-89

1975 14 Louisville Las Cruces, N.M. L, 96-82

1999 13 St. John's Knoxville, Tenn. L, 76-63

1996 12 Santa Clara Tempe, Ariz. L, 91-79

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.