Maryland vs. Texas-El Paso

Phoenix Regional First Round

Pepsi Center, Denver * 2:40 p.m. * Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM) * Line: Maryland by 6

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht

The teams

Maryland (19-11)

No. 4 seed; finished sixth in Atlantic Coast Conference regular season (7-9), won ACC tournament to earn NCAA bid.

Texas-El Paso (24-7)

No. 13 seed; tied for first in Western Athletic Conference regular season (13-5), lost in final of WAC tournament; received at-large NCAA bid.

Backcourts

Maryland

John Gilchrist is the Terps' leading scorer, their catalyst, and is on a major roll after averaging 24 points, 6.3 assists and only two turnovers during his three-day MVP run through the ACC tournament. Shooting guard Chris McCray has shaken off a long slump by averaging 13.6 points over his past seven games.

UTEP

Junior point guard Filiberto Rivera is the key to the Miners' success, since he will have to break Maryland's press and find open shooters to crack Maryland's defense. Shooting guard Chris Craig is undersized at 6-1 and averages only 9.0 points per game.

Edge: Maryland

Frontcourts

Maryland

Senior 6-9 center Jamar Smith has gotten red hot at the right time. After finishing the regular season with 26 points and 20 rebounds in victories over N.C. State and Virginia, Smith earned first-team, all-ACC tournament honors by averaging 19.7 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore 6-8 forward Travis Garrison has come alive offensively. His 39-point, 19-rebound showing made him a second-team, all-ACC tournament pick.

UTEP

Senior forward Roy Smallwood, 6-6, averages 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, and the Miners are 14-0 when he scores in double figures. Forward Jason Williams, 6-6, does it all. He averages 11.6 points and 6.0 rebounds and has led the team in assists 13 times. Sophomore center John Tofi, 6-8, has scored in double figures 18 times.

Edge: Maryland

Benches

Maryland

Having freshman guard D.J. Strawberry healthy enough to play after he suffered a sprained ankle at the ACC tournament is a big plus. He is a defensive catalyst who can play three positions. Freshman guard Mike Jones has no conscience as a shooter and is coming off a huge game against Duke. Freshman forward Ekene Ibekwe and freshman center Hassan Fofana give the Terps a strong defensive presence.

UTEP

Junior 6-5 forward Omar Thomas is so good as a reserve that he leads the Miners in scoring (15.5 ppg) and ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.8), despite averaging just 22.4 minutes per game. Sophomore guard Giovanni St. Amant is the only other notable backup. He averages 5.8 points per game.

Edge: Maryland

Coaches

Maryland

Gary Williams is in his 15th year at Maryland and beginning his 11th consecutive NCAA tournament run. Williams has taken the Terps to the Sweet 16 seven times, back-to-back Final Fours and the 2002 national title. In 26 years of coaching, he has an overall NCAA tournament record of 25-12.

UTEP

Billy Gillispie is just getting started in his first NCAA tournament as a head coach. He spent five years as an assistant under Bill Self at Tulsa and Illinois between 1997 and 2002, before taking over at UTEP last year. The Miners went 6-24, then went through a dramatic turnaround as WAC co-champs with Nevada, before getting into the NCAAs for the first time since 1992.

Edge: Maryland

Keys to victory

Maryland

The Terps have a stable of excellent athletes who have come into their own at an opportune time. They should be able to force an up-tempo game with good shooting and rebounding, but they need to shake off any overconfidence that is lingering from their storybook run through the ACC tournament.

UTEP

The Miners need to make some shots early to feel good about themselves, turn the contest into a half-court game by limiting Maryland's fast break, and work the shot clock in an effort to maintain some control of the tempo. Someone besides Thomas and Rivera must step up with a huge game.

Bottom line

Don't be surprised if Maryland comes out sluggishly, what with its short turnaround from the ACC tournament title victory over Duke on Sunday and the early start of today's game. But it's hard not to envision Gilchrist driving this deeper, more talented team to victory.

Maryland, 78-69

Maryland roster, statistics

Coach: Gary Williams

No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown G Min. Pts. Reb. Ast.

1 Jamar Smith F-C 6-9 239 Sr. Sicklerville, N.J. 30 30.4 12.9 8.9 1.2

2 Andre Collins G 5-10 167 Jr. Crisfield, Md. 6 8.8 2.5 1.2 1.7

4 Travis Garrison F-C 6-9 236 So. Suitland, Md. 30 21.8 7.6 5.0 0.6

5 D.J. Strawberry G 6-5 183 Fr. Corona, Calif. 29 20.0 6.1 2.7 1.4

11 John Gilchrist G 6-3 199 So. Virginia Beach, Va. 30 33.9 15.6 4.5 4.9

13 Chris McCray G 6-5 180 So. Capitol Heights, Md. 30 29.7 10.8 3.9 2.8

20 Darien Henry F 6-6 204 Jr. Roxbury, N.J. 9 2.2 0.4 0.2 0.0

21 Mike Grinnon F 6-6 211 Jr. Huntington, N.Y. 11 4.1 0.5 1.0 0.5

22 Nik Caner-Medley F 6-8 233 So. Portland, Maine 30 31.1 12.4 4.9 1.7

23 Mike Jones G 6-5 196 Fr. Dorchester, Mass. 28 10.0 5.0 1.9 0.4

25 Ekene Ibekwe F 6-9 211 Fr. Carson, Calif. 30 13.3 4.9 3.6 0.3

31 Will Bowers C 7-1 245 Fr. Hanover, Md. 19 5.1 0.8 1.2 0.2

44 Hassan Fofana F-C 6-10 290 Fr. Weston, Mass. 26 8.5 1.5 1.8 0.1

UTEP roster, statistics

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