Grinnon, Jones rise to the occasion in OT from deep on bench

Junior, freshman provide late foul shots, defense to help bring title to Terps

College Basketball

March 15, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The strangest aspect of Maryland's remarkable Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship wasn't the three-day run of excellence by the sixth-seeded Terps, but two guys who helped finish it, Mike Grinnon and Mike Jones.

Sophomore starters Chris McCray and Nik Caner-Medley fouled out in the final minute of regulation yesterday against Duke. D.J. Strawberry was ailing. Coach Gary Williams wasn't comfortable with matchups that confronted fellow freshmen Ekene Ibekwe and Hassan Fofana, so he went deep down his bench.

A McDonald's All-American at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts last year, Jones was supposed to be the plum in this freshman class, a first-rate scorer. He had to learn to play defense at a high level, however, and the 6-foot-5 wing played sporadically in the first six weeks of the season.

At least Jones played in all 16 ACC games. Grinnon, a 6-6 junior from Huntington, N.Y., made cameo regular-season appearances in two blowouts, a loss at Duke and win over Clemson at Comcast Center.

Before yesterday, Grinnon's claim to fame was that he was the only holdover from the 2002 NCAA champions. Now he is a bigger man on campus, after hawking dangerous shooter J.J. Redick and hitting a pair of free throws with 50.6 seconds remaining in overtime that made it a two-possession game.

Grinnon last attempted a free throw on Dec. 7, against West Virginia. He had played three minutes in Maryland's previous 18 games. Yesterday he logged a career-high 10, including a three-minute stint in the first half and the entire overtime.

"Coach always tells you to be ready," Grinnon said. "I just tried to turn my nervousness into energy and play my hardest. I was just trying to keep my composure."

Jones had only one basket, but it was a huge one. His three-pointer from deep in the left corner with 33 seconds left in regulation got Maryland within one. In overtime, Jones made four free throws, forced a turnover by Daniel Ewing, hit the boards -- he had six rebounds -- and showed that he may have a bigger NBA upside than Redick.

"That was definitely the biggest shot of my life," Jones said of the three-pointer, which came on a sharp pass from Jamar Smith. "I never thought the game would turn out this way, but Mike [Grinnon] and I proved that we're capable."

Fifteen days after he was pulled and sat down for the final 19 minutes of a home loss to Wake Forest, Smith proved his mettle with his inclusion on the all-tournament team.

"That was the toughest day of my basketball career," Smith said of the Feb. 28 loss, "but you have to bounce back.

In Saturday's semifinal win over Georgia Tech, Duke center Shelden Williams did not commit a foul, which coach Mike Krzyzewski said was a product of Georgia Tech's inability to "feed the post." Maryland got the ball down low to Smith at least two dozen times, the main reason Williams, Shavlik Randolph and Nick Horvath fouled out.

It was still a one-possession game when Smith went to the free-throw line with 18.5 seconds left and Maryland up 90-87. He's been a notoriously poor free-throw shooter for much of the season, and he was 4-for-8 from the line at that point. With Caner-Medley and McCray on the bench, closing their eyes like those of little kids at a horror movie, Smith made both.

NOTES: Travis Garrison, who had 19 points, was conspicuous by his absence when Duke made a big push in the second half. He was fighting fatigue and pain in his lower back. Garrison made second-team all-tournament. The first team consisted of Gilchrist, Smith and Duke's Chris Duhon, Ewing and Williams. ... Caner-Medley, who's from Maine, said: "I didn't even win a state championship. Now we've got this."

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