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Maryland finds Georgetown worth the wait

By Steve Berkowitz,

In a game that was almost worth a 13-season wait, Maryland defeated 15th-ranked Georgetown, 84-83, yesterday at USAir Arena on sophomore guard Duane Simpkins’s running layup with three seconds left in overtime.

Sure, it was the season opener for both teams. But it was more than that for the coaches, players and 13,761 fans — most of whom rooted for the Terrapins. It was the first time the teams, once bitter rivals, had met since 1979-80, when they faced each other once in the regular season and again in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

“The intensity was definitely there,” Georgetown senior guard JoeyBrown said.

“I would have been very upset if we had lost that game,” Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. “But even if we had lost, I would have felt two days from now this was a great college basketball game.”

After trailing by 14 points with 12 1 / 2 minutes remaining in regulation, the Terrapins came back to lead by four late in the game. But Georgetown guard George Butler sent the game into overtime at 76-76 on a three-point basket with 4.6 seconds left.

Maryland took an 80-76 lead early in the overtime before three consecutive turnovers led to seven straight points by the Hoyas — the last three on a desperate jumper by Brown from the National Basketball Association three-point line that banked in as the shot clock expired and game clock ticked down to 1:06 with the Hoyas ahead 83-80.

But Maryland freshman Keith Booth made two free throws with 39.2 seconds left, reserve forward Kurtis Shultz stole a pass by Kevin Millen with 22 seconds left, and Maryland called timeout with 13.7 seconds left.

When play resumed, Simpkins took the ball near midcourt on the left side and beat Brown on a drive toward the middle. He then knifed into the lane and tossed up a shot that fell cleanly through the net.

“Georgetown changes defenses a lot in that timeout situation so we had a zone play called and we had what we ran there — a spread play for Duane,” Williams said. “The last thing I told Duane was, ‘If they’re in the man-to-man, when you penetrate, make sure you drop it off to somebody for the shot.’ So he dropped it off in the basket.”

Georgetown quickly inbounded the ball, but couldn’t get off a shot. When the buzzer sounded, a grinning Simpkins ran from the court to the press table, slapped hands with Maryland radio announcer Johnny Holliday, then jumped onto the table with both fists upraised.

Simpkins said he knew he was supposed to pass rather than shoot, but “I don’t know, sometimes when I get in those situations, I just want to be the hero. Sometimes it may not come out the way I want it to, but this time, it did.”

Many things came out the way Maryland wanted yesterday, beginning with the play of freshman center Joe Smith, who set a school record for scoring in the first game of a player’s career. Smithscored a game-high 26 points (surpassing Exree Hipp’s record of 21 points in his first game). Smith also pulled down nine rebounds and made three steals. He gave the Terrapins inside strength even as Georgetown’s sophomore center, Othella Harrington, totaled 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Smith “was probably a little bit better than I had anticipated him being,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. “He hurt us in the middle with turnaround jump shots. I think he’s going to be a heck of a player.”

But Georgetown received a splendid debut from Butler, a junior-college transfer who scored 20 of his team-leading 21 points after halftime on four of six field goal attempts, including two of three three-point tries and 10 of 12 free throws.

The Terrapins played extremely well during the opening 7 1 / 2 minutes, and used a 9-0 run to take an 18-11 lead. But they missed 19 of their last 23 shots of the first half and Georgetown led, 38-28, at halftime.

Maryland missed seven of its first eight shots of the second half, and saw its deficit grow to 51-37. Moments later, Williams removed the 6-foot Simpkins from the game, went with a lineup in which 6-5 sophomore Johnny Rhodes (20 points, eight rebounds) was Maryland’s shortest player, and began using a pressing defense.

The move energized the Terrapins, who quickly forced Georgetown to call a timeout. The Hoyas regrouped momentarily, but then their offense ground to a near halt. While Maryland surged from a 60-50 deficit with 8:49 left to a 73-69 lead with 2:40 to play in regulation, Georgetown made nine of 14 free throws, but didn’t have a field goal attempt.

Georgetown’s only basket during the final 8:49 of regulation was Butler’s three-pointer that forced overtime. It was a shot that could have disheartened the young Terrapins, who used freshmen and sophomores almost exclusively yesterday — as they will throughout this season.

But Maryland took an 80-76 lead at the start of overtime on a basket and two free throws by Smith. Maryland had a chance to add to the lead, but Simpkins threw a pass out of bounds. That sparked Georgetown, which used two turnovers by Booth to take an 83-80 lead.

But Booth made two free throws for 83-82, and then Shultz — the only Terrapin in uniform who is not a freshman or sophomore — knocked away a pass in front of Georgetown’s bench and got the ball back.

Simpkins did the rest. Now both teams come back and play again today. Only this time, Georgetown’s opponent will be Virginia State and Maryland’s will be Cornell.

“This win is great,” Smith said, “but we don’t want to make it our season.”

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