Gamecocks finish off Terps in NIT, 75-67

Off on Broadway, Maryland reverts to flat form, falls in semi

March 30, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The revival of the Maryland basketball team's season ended on Broadway last night as the Terrapins resorted to the sloppy and uninspired form that was their trademark in this disappointing season.

Falling one game short of the opportunity to play for a National Invitation Tournament championship, Maryland was eliminated by South Carolina, 75-67, in the semifinals before 12,657 at Madison Square Garden.

The Terps (19-13), who were outscored 34-18 in a nine-minute stretch spanning halftime, finished one win shy of reaching the 20-victory plateau for a ninth straight season. Not since the 1995-96 season, when the Terps went 17-13 but did make the NCAA tourna ment, did Maryland end its season without at least 20 wins.

The Gamecocks (19-13) will play Saint Joseph's, a 70-58 winner over Memphis, in tomorrow night's final, while the Terps will be back in College Park, lamenting their latest and final bout of inconsistency.

Maryland, which played its fourth straight game without starting point guard John Gilchrist, trailed 41-29 at halftime, but unlike in its previous three NIT games where the Terps were able to erase deficits, they were barely able to get back into last night's game mostly because they were never able to string together stops on defense.

South Carolina hit the Terps with the knockout punch early in the second half, thanks to an 8-0 run that pushed its lead to 53-35.

From there, the Terps" frustration became more and more visible as South Carolina owned the offensive glass and forced Maryland into a steady diet of miscues. Terps coach Gary Williams clutched his hips and stared into the Garden rafters.

Gilchrist, who likely was spending his last game on the Terps' bench, as he is expected to declare early for the NBA draft, was animated in the first half, rising to his feet at every opportunity to cheer on a teammate or relay an offensive or defensive signal to his teammates. By the 12:00 mark of the second half, his head remained fixated on the floor.

Maryland did show some signs of waking from its malaise with a modest 6-0 run to trim the Gamecocks" lead to 12, but then the Terps surrendered another easy basket, a layup by Brandon Wallace, on the other end.

It was only an 11-point Gamecocks lead when Travis Garrison made a short jumper, but then a bad pass from Mike Jones on an alley-oop attempt cost the Terps a chance to get within single digits at the 8:35 mark. Another chance to inch closer went by the wayside on a Nik Caner- Medley turnover.

Finally the Terps did cut South Carolina's lead to single digits as Jones, who was the Terp most responsible for the second-half surge, buried a three-pointer to pull Maryland within 62-53 with just over six minutes to play.

It was a spirited run for the Terps, but it also proved to be much too little, too late. Down 64-54, the Terps had several chances but came up empty amid a series of missed shots.

Going into last night, the NIT had been the scene of an about- face for Maryland. The Terps had lost four straight games coming in and failed to garner an invitation to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993.

However, since the NIT be gan, the Terps had been a looser and seemingly more determined team. They have been sharing the basketball and hawking it on the other end with their full- court press.

It was the Terps" defense last night that allowed them to take an early advantage. Two Gamecocks" turnovers led to Chris McCray dunks on the other end as Maryland led 14-9.

However, the Terps went cold, stopped taking care of the basketball and started to get beat up on the boards. That led to a 16-4 South Carolina run that gave the Gamecocks a 25-18 lead and forced Williams to take a timeout.

The cap to that run was Renaldo Balkman's steal of a lazy pass from Ekene Ibekwe and uncontested dunk on the other end, which was part of nine straight South Carolina points.

Caner-Medley kept the Terps within striking distance, sandwiching two buckets around a Garrison layup, but Maryland had no answer on the other end.

At one point late in the first half the Gamecocks scored on six straight possessions and nine out of 10. Even when Maryland got an initial stop, they often couldn't get the rebound, allowing the Gamecocks several easy putbacks.

South Carolina's Josh Gonner beat McCray off the cut, giving South Carolina yet another easy basket and a 39-27 lead.

A dunk by McCray just before time expired in the first half allowed Maryland to trim the Gamecocks" lead to 41-29, but the damage was clearly done. After tying the game at 18 at around the midpoint of the first half, the Terps were outscored 23-11 the rest of the way.

UM results

Final record: 19-13

Date Opponent Result

Nov. 19 Jackson State W, 93-57

Nov. 23 Mercer W, 93-67

Nov. 26 vs. Memphis-a W, 84-61

Nov. 30 at Wisconsin-b L, 69-64

Dec. 4 vs. G. Mason-c W, 78-54

Dec. 5 G. Washington-c L, 101-92

Dec. 12 UNC-Asheville W, 96-72

Dec. 19 Florida State W, 90-88, OT

Dec. 23 American W, 82-61

Dec. 28 Liberty W, 112-68

Jan. 4 Mt. St. Mary's W, 85-53

Jan. 8 at North Carolina L, 109-75

Jan. 11 at Wake Forest L, 81-66

Jan. 15 Temple W, 80-69

Jan. 19 Virginia W, 82-68

Jan. 23 N.C. State L, 85-69

Jan. 26 at Duke W, 75-66

Jan. 30 Georgia Tech W, 79-71

Feb. 1 at Clemson L, 88-73

Feb. 5 at Miami L, 75-73, OT

Feb. 8 Virginia Tech W, 86-71

Feb. 12 Duke W, 99-92, OT

Feb. 16 at N.C. State L, 82-63

Feb. 19 at Virginia W, 92-89, 2OT

Feb. 22 Clemson L, 97-93

Feb. 27 North Carolina L, 85-83

March 5 at Virginia Tech L, 86-76

March 10 Clemson-d L, 84-72

March 16 Oral Roberts-e W, 85-72

March 23 Davidson-e W, 78-63

March 26 TCU-e W, 85-73

March 29 South Carolina-f L, 75-67

a-Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, Springfield, Mass. b-ACC/Big Ten Challenge c-BB&T Classic at MCI Center, Washington d-ACC tournament at MCI Center, Washington e-NIT at Comcast Center f-NIT semifinal, New York

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