Terps weather Hurricanes

UM seniors rise late to seal a win on Senior Night

Maryland 65, Miami 61

March 02, 2006|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

College Park -- If nothing else, the Maryland men's basketball team proved last night that this season isn't over.

It was a fitting end to Senior Night at Comcast Center, as Maryland senior forward Nik Caner-Medley came up with a critical block and senior Sterling Ledbetter made two free throws in the waning seconds to seal the 65-61 win against Miami.

The game was tied at 57 with less than a minute to play and Maryland had the ball. Sophomore forward James Gist hit a 15-foot jumper with 48.9 seconds left, but guard Mike Jones fouled Miami's top shooter on the next possession. Anthony Harris missed one of his two free throws, though, and the Terps held onto their precarious lead with the free-throw shooting that had kept them in the game to begin with.

Trailing 61-58 with about 15 seconds left, Miami had the ball in its best three-point shooter's hands, but Caner-Medley came up with a Senior Night-saving block on Guillermo Diaz.

Miami guard Robert Hite hit a three-pointer with 7.3 seconds left to close the deficit to 62-61, but Ledbetter, a transfer who grew up dreaming of playing for the Terps, made both of his free throws to keep it a three-point game.

Maryland (17-11, 7-8 Atlantic Coast Conference), which is still clinging to hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament, will finish its regular season at Virginia on Sunday.

Mike Jones made all six of his foul shots and scored 15 points, and Ekene Ibekwe had nine points and 11 rebounds for Maryland.

Both teams entered last night looking to pull out of a slump, as Maryland had lost seven of its past nine, and Miami (15-13, 7-8) four of five. For most of the game, it looked as though the Terps would do it.

Jones missed six three-point attempts until there was 3:45 left to play, when his basket inched the Terps within 57-55. Two free throws by Ibekwe tied the game at 57 with 3:09 remaining.

Hite's basket at the 15:15 mark tied the game at 48. With 13:29 left to play, Harris hit a three-pointer from in front of his team's bench that gave the Hurricanes a 42-40 edge, their first lead of the game.

Hite scored the following two baskets, including a dunk off an alley-oop that quieted the crowd, and put his team ahead 46-40.

It was seven consecutive points by Harris, though, that changed the momentum of the game. Miami had a 46-44 lead when Harris, who scored 22 points in 22 minutes the last time he faced the Terps, capped a 7-2 run with a three-pointer for the 53-46 lead.

D.J. Strawberry, who played the defense he had earned a reputation for, clapped his hands and got in the face of Diaz, who leads the Hurricanes with 17.3 points per game.

Maryland's free-throw shooting kept the Terps in the game when they couldn't make a field goal at a critical stretch. Travis Garrison and Caner-Medley combined to make six of six and close the gap to 55-52.

The game began with a different tone than the last time these teams met, when Miami scored the first 13 points of the game and the Hurricanes' three starting guards combined to score 65 points.

There was a spurt in this game where Maryland seemed to be on top of the world, as opposed to the bottom half of the conference standings. The Terps, who never trailed in the first half, were ahead 14-13 when they used an 11-0 run to expand their lead to 12 points. Caner-Medley scored five of those points, and after he made a wide-open three with 12:07 remaining, he pumped his left hand in the air, indicating No. 1 with his finger.

On the following possession, Ibekwe ignited the crowd with a slam dunk that followed a missed three-point attempt by Jones. With 7:48 left in the half, Maryland had a 25-13 lead over a team that made 12 three-pointers against it earlier in the season.

And then the Terps didn't score another basket until the final minute of the half.

Maryland made just four of its following 18 field-goal attempts, and Miami quickly made it a one-point game again with 11 unanswered points.

Maryland showed improved perimeter defense early, but even with hands in his face, Diaz got his points, making three three-pointers in the first half. Maryland made just one of eight from beyond the arc, and Jones missed all five of his attempts. The Hurricanes trailed 30-29 at the half.

Maryland coach Gary Williams started the squad's three seniors in their final regular-season home game, and each contributed in the opening eight minutes. Caner-Medley scored 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting, and Travis Garrison and Ledbetter both had baskets to stake Maryland to a 21-13 lead.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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