ncaa tournament

Memphis routs, ousts Maryland

March 22, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -Maryland's better-than-expected season slipped away yesterday, done in by an inspired Memphis team that smothered the Terps with long, waving arms on defense and torrid, early three-point shooting.

Neither shrewd coaching nor pressing defense - the hallmarks of Maryland's earlier success - could rescue the Terps in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Memphis was just too good.

The Tigers (33-3) won, 89-70, by making Maryland, a No. 10 seed, look mortal and small with a balanced, inside-out game and hot early shooting - they made 19 of 26 shots - that left the Terps (21-14) in a hole from which they couldn't recover.

Second seed Memphis, which has won 27 in a row, seemed determined to redeem itself after playing listlessly in its 81-70 victory over 15th seed Cal State Northridge on Thursday.

The Tigers said it was their passive opening-round performance - not provocative comments by Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez the day before the game - that incited them.

Vasquez told reporters Friday that Memphis, which plays in Conference USA, would have a losing record in the stronger Atlantic Coast Conference.

The comments were quickly relayed to Tigers coach John Calipari by a Memphis reporter.

Calipari, who suggested his players would have seen Vasquez's comments anyway on television or online, said the remarks were not central to his team's effort. "I think we were more concerned about how we played the last game than what he said," the coach said.

But, Calipari conceded, "I was kind of happy he said it."

Maryland coach Gary Williams, who is 7-4 in second-round games with Maryland, said Vasquez was "wrong in saying those things like he said. But at the same time, sometimes the translation gets lost a little bit."

Blue-clad Memphis fans, who outnumbered Maryland supporters at Sprint Center, chanted "ACC" at Vasquez and the Terps in the final moments. One fan yelled, "Hey, Greivis how do you like our conference now?"

"They proved me wrong," Vasquez said of the Tigers, who shot 70.4 percent in the first half and a season-high 58.5 percent overall. "I said they needed to play against some good competition, and they played good against us. No, I probably won't say it again because those guys will get motivated to kill or something like that."

Vasquez and the Terps had a frustrating shooting day. Vasquez, who had 18 points, and Adrian Bowie, who had 11, repeatedly drove into the lane and were met by taller defenders.

A telling sequence came when Vasquez drove to the basket in the first half. He missed a floater, then - with Maryland trailing 15-4 - penetrated again on the next series and gave an official a long look when he missed and no foul was called.

Vasquez picked up a technical foul in the second half.

"It wasn't hard for me to get to the lane, but as soon as I got to the lane they played great defense," he said. "I was frustrated. I was trying to get to the free-throw line. I told the ref, 'Could you call me a foul, please?' I apologized."

Maryland was forced into a pack-the-lane defense early by the larger Tigers. Williams said the goal was to stop drives by Tyreke Evans, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard.

Williams knew it was a gamble for the Terps to clog the middle with Memphis' Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie on the floor. Sallie, a reserve guard whose season high was 13 points before the tournament began, was coming off a 35-point game (including 10 three-pointers) that set a Memphis record for an NCAA game. Mack entered with a team-leading 41 threes.

Maryland had to switch to man-to-man defense after Mack got hot. The junior guard made four three-pointers in the first half as Memphis bolted to a 53-33 lead. He finished with 17 points. Sallie finished with three three-pointers and 13 points.

Maryland missed a chance to go to its first Sweet 16 since 2002-03. Senior Dave Neal, who played his last college game, said, "It's going to take a couple days to put this loss behind."

Neal said Maryland had surprised many observers by making the tournament and that he would always remember victories over North Carolina, Wake Forest and Michigan State.

"Probably one of the best senior seasons I could possibly think of," he said.

It's uncertain whether Vasquez will return. The junior walked out of the arena yesterday with a towel draped over his shoulder and his sneakers dangling from his right hand.

He is weighing entering the NBA draft but said yesterday, "I'll think about that in the right time and place."

play it again

Keys to the game

It's hard to overcome a bigger team when it is shooting as well as Memphis. The Tigers made 19 of their first 26 shots, including eight of their first 11 three-point attempts. It was their best shooting game of the season.

Did you notice?

* Sean Mosley made an athletic block in the first half, then pulled down an offensive rebound on the other end. But he still seems hesitant to shoot from the outside.

* Greivis Vasquez was booed by Memphis fans during introductions. He often seemed to be pleading with officials for foul calls after driving the lane.

* Memphis didn't start Roburt Sallie after his 35-point effort in the previous game. But the guard played 23 minutes and scored 13 points.

Left to ponder

Did Vasquez's disparaging comments

about Conference USA fire up


Jeff Barker

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