By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2007
For most of its game against Miami last night, Maryland got more points out of backup center Will Bowers than it did from season leading scorer D.J. Strawberry, and two noteworthy baskets came on a pair of three pointers -- by big man James Gist and shooting-shy point guard Eric Hayes.
If that wasn't strange enough, Ekene Ibekwe, whose performance from the charity stripe has been shaky, knocked down a pair of free throws with little more than five minutes left to tie the game and give the Terrapins a chance at a win.
But for all the extraordinary that took place in front of 17,950 at Comcast Center, the Terrapins fell, 63-58, to Miami in their ACC home opener because of some painfully ordinary shortcomings.
During a game in which neither team cracked 35 percent shooting, and the outcome came down to plays determined by grit and toughness, Maryland was outrebounded 55-41, outscored in the paint 32-14 and failed to make layups down the stretch -- all against an undersized Miami team missing its best big man.
"You can be in denial, but in certain situations you have to accept the reality," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "We got our butts kicked on the glass. It was as simple as that."
Even as the Hurricanes owned the lane and the Terrapins put up miss after miss inside, Maryland had a chance to win the game late. Ibekwe hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to cut the Hurricanes' lead to 59-56. But Miami guard Anthony Harris iced the victory with four free throws in the last 21 seconds, sending Maryland to face the possibility of starting league play 0-3.
"We had some good looks that we didn't make," said Williams, whose team will host undefeated Clemson on Saturday. "You get tighter as the game goes on because you've been missing. And then we couldn't make some shots down the stretch when I thought we had some pretty good looks."
Maryland fell to 14-3 and 0-2 in the ACC and had its winning streak ended at five. The loss marks Maryland's third in four games against Miami since the Hurricanes joined the conference.
Grabbing more rebounds has been a point of emphasis for Williams over the past few weeks, even as his team rolled to close out its nonconference slate. But Williams's message -- even laced with the incentive of increased playing time for those who met the coach's demands -- seemed lost upon the Terrapins, who were thoroughly thrashed on the boards even as the Hurricanes played without their best low post threat, Anthony King.
"They gave a better effort overall on rebounding tonight," said Ibekwe, who scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "They were getting everyone boxing out well and we didn't. That's the bottom line. They won that battle."
Said Strawberry: "I just think we've got to have more heart. Getting pounded on the boards is [about] heart."
Strawberry, who had averaged more than 20 points over his last five games, finished with just seven points on 1-of-8 shooting, his only field goal coming on an inconsequential layup with 2.4 seconds left and the game already decided.
"I got open shot after open shot and I couldn't get going tonight," said Strawberry, who has managed just 12 points in two ACC games this season.
After trailing by five at halftime, Bowers made an 18-foot jumper to pull the Terrapins to within 30-29 with 16 minutes 2 seconds left. After Miami's Keaton Copeland answered with a floater, Gist brought out the loudest ovation offered by a Comcast Center crowd this season.
Gist swished a three-pointer from the wing to tie the game at 32. After Miami's Denis Clemente scored on a runner and the Maryland missed four straight free throws, Eric Hayes hit a three-pointer to put the Terps ahead 35-34 with 13:33 left, their first lead since late in the first half.
But the advantage was short-lived and little more than six minutes later Miami pushed the lead to six, when James Dews drained a three-pointer to put the Hurricanes ahead 43-37.
The Terrapins managed to rally once more despite a string of missed layups and fouls. Ibekwe tied the game at 43 with 5:06 left with a pair of free throws. But once again, Miami turned back the tide. The Terrapins went 9 1/2 minutes without a field goal during the latter part of the second half, until Strawberry's layup. Maryland made just 13 of 58 shots (22.4 percent) for the game.
Senior Mike Jones led Maryland with 17 points, and Gist finished with 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Harris led three Miami players in double figures with 15 points. The Hurricanes improved to 9-8 and 2-1 in the ACC.