Forward march

Making an about-face from ACC tournament, Terps get by 13th seed

Maryland 82 Davidson 70

Ncaa Men's Tournament

March 16, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour Wednesday night - the eve of his first NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons - Maryland coach Gary Williams decided to watch first-round tournament upsets on ESPN Classic.

The first round, he said, is historically one of the toughest, and yesterday was no exception in the Midwest Regional. No. 4 seed Maryland was forced to fight back - just as it has all season - and escaped HSBC Arena with an 82-70 victory over No. 13 seed Davidson, a gritty, undersized team that proved it had every right to be here.

"I probably should have watched more Davidson tape, but I wanted to see how that went because you definitely feel pressure today," Williams said of Princeton's 1996 upset over UCLA that he watched. "In other words, if you don't win today, it doesn't matter what you did during the season, people want to know what's wrong. ... That's a big thing for us to win that game."

Maryland (25-8) will play No. 5 seed Butler (28-6) tomorrow in the second round. It is the first time the Terps have advanced to the second round of the tournament since 2004, when they also were a No. 4 seed.

Maryland trailed by as many as eight points to Davidson, the winner of the Southern Conference tournament, with 17:22 left to play when Williams called a timeout.

"My message was just to remind them why we were here," he said. "We came here to win this game, and to make sure that we did everything we could to win. I told them there was no guarantee we were going to come back. ... That was a tough situation, but this team has come from tough situations all year. That's not the first time we've had to do something like that."

Maryland earned its tournament bid by winning its final seven games of the regular season, but was unexpectedly booted from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in the first round by last-place Miami. The Terps entered the NCAA tournament determined not to be sent home early again, but it wasn't until the second half that they took ownership of the fluctuating lead.

With just under 10 minutes to play, reserve forward Bambale Osby scored a basket that put the Terps ahead 60-59. Maryland never trailed after that, and an improved defensive effort tempered the Wildcats' timely three-pointers and drives to the basket.

Standout freshman Stephen Curry, son of former NBA player Dell Curry, finished with 30 points - the most any player has scored against the Terps this season.

"Curry's for real," Williams said. "I told him after the game he can play anywhere. Don't mistake that as a recruiting tool to get him to transfer, but he's really good."

Curry made five of nine field-goal attempts in the first half - including three three-pointers - but when senior guard D.J. Strawberry played him man-to-man in the second half, Curry was 4-for-12.

"I knew they were going to continue to go to him, so I either had to step it up or he was going to beat us by himself," Strawberry said.

Senior forward Ekene Ibekwe had four fouls with 14 minutes left to play. Osby helped keep Maryland in the game despite some foul trouble and the Wildcats' sharp shooting. Osby, who scored 11 points, muscled his way in for three-point plays, grabbed timely rebounds and even set up some of his teammates.

"Bambale's been big in a lot of big games for us," Williams said. "He seems to play his best when we really need him, and he did it again today."

Maryland did a better job of getting the ball inside in the second half and limited Davidson's ability to penetrate. Osby also had six rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.

"When great things are asked, people become great," said Osby, whose 21 minutes are the most he has played since the ACC opener Dec. 10 at Boston College. "That's always the attitude I've taken. When you're called upon to do something, you've got to play above and beyond. That's something I've been able to do. I don't know where it comes from, it just happens."

It certainly helped.

Williams said he put all of his effort into preparing the team for Davidson but assigned his assistants to scout the next opponent.

"I'll obviously switch over right now as soon as I leave here and get on both of those teams and hopefully do a good job in practice tomorrow being prepared," he said. "When you hire a staff, that's part of the reason you hire those guys. They know the game and can pick up things so that when you get into a tournament situation like this, you can make that changeover pretty quick. They make my job a lot easier."

And give him time to watch the kind of upset he worked to avoid.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Play it again

A recap of fourth-seeded Maryland's 82-70 win over No. 13 seed Davidson in the first round of the NCAA tournament yesterday:

Key run / / Trailing by eight with 17:22 left in the second half, Maryland used a 14-3 run to take a three-point lead.

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