Terps face rare close encounter with Hoyas

Maryland Men

November 30, 2008|By Tania Ganguli | Tania Ganguli,Orlando Sentinel

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It's neither the championship game nor the game featuring the highest-ranked teams. But the significance of tonight's third-place game in the Old Spice Classic goes beyond that.

At 5:30 p.m. today, for the first time during the regular season in 15 years, Maryland and No. 21 Georgetown will play a men's basketball game with nothing on the line but pride.

"It's ironic that we're playing them here," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. " ... It should be a good game. A lot of the guys know each other on both teams. They're a very good basketball team."

The schools are just 13 miles apart, but this meeting, like the previous one, will happen by accident.

The Hoyas met the Terrapins in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament in 2001. They played a regular-season game in 1993 and met twice during the 1979-80 season - including in the NCAA tournament - before any of the players now on either team were even born.

If the tournament had played out based on the rankings, Maryland and Georgetown would not have crossed paths.

Maryland would have lost to No. 5 Michigan State in the tournament's opening round and found itself in the losers' bracket. From there the Terps would have played Oklahoma State on Friday and might have advanced to the consolation game against Wichita State or Siena.

But the Terps didn't take part in this tournament just for experience.

From the moment the players entered the locker room, Williams told them they were there to win it. They won't - after beating Michigan State, they lost to Gonzaga - but the sentiment was there.

"I'm good friends with Gary, and he's had hundreds of those in his career," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Maryland's win over Michigan State. "They weren't an eye-opener to me. I think Michigan State's really, really good. If you paint a Maryland team into a corner, they're going come out fighting and scrapping and come out with the win every time."

Georgetown, meanwhile, knocked off Wichita State, 58-50, in its Thanksgiving game. The Hoyas then lost to No. 12 Tennessee, 90-78, on Friday.

That set up a game filled with players who grew up within miles of one another. Georgetown has six players from Maryland or the Washington-Northern Virginia region. Maryland has seven. Five Baltimore natives will face off, with three wearing red and two donning gray.

Despite the connections, players downplayed the matchup.

"It's a little weird, but maybe it could be better," Maryland forward Dave Neal said. "I mean, it's a neutral court; we're not playing at either their place or our place ... so whoever goes out there and competes the hardest and plays the best hopefully will win the game."

Georgetown guard Chris Wright, who is from Bowie but went to high school in the District, called it just another game.

Rivalries, after all, are built on history and familiarity. Lately, Maryland and Georgetown haven't had either. But a game this rare, between neighbors, just feels more important. And if the Terps get their second win in four days over a ranked opponent, it might not feel like just another game.

MARYLAND (4-1) VS. NO. 21 GEORGETOWN (3-1)

Today,

5:30 p.m., Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AMs

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