In Just a Minute, Terrapins' Season Comes to an End

With less than a minute remaining and the Terrapins down by two, Maryland's D.J. Strawberry collides with Butler's Brandon Crone on this play and is called for charging.
With less than a minute remaining and the Terrapins down by two, Maryland's D.J. Strawberry collides with Butler's Brandon Crone on this play and is called for charging. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007

BUFFALO, March 17 -- Maryland's season will be remembered for the late-season turnaround that enabled the Terrapins to make a resplendent return to the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed.

But the season's final minute will be remembered for the maddening sequence of events that abruptly concluded the year with a 62-59 loss to fifth-seeded Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament at HSBC Arena. A controversial charging call, a critical lost rebound and a bobbled ball all culminated in a loss Coach Gary Williams won't soon shake from his psyche.

"Until practice starts October 14," he said, "this game will be there."

What made the loss so frustrating for Maryland was that the Terrapins (25-9) were in position to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 2003 even though Butler, one of the nation's most disciplined teams, dictated the tempo for much of the game by limiting possessions.

"It's just sad," freshman Greivis Vasquez said. "You don't want to talk about this. I don't want to talk about this."

In the end, the Terrapins uncharacteristically unraveled. They struggled mightily at the free throw line, making 7 of 15 attempts. They dominated the rebounding battle, 37-23, but failed to get critical rebounds in the closing minutes. And with a chance to tie in the final seconds with a three-pointer, Maryland got the ball to the right player, but he fumbled it away.

With 0.6 of a second on the clock, Maryland's Dave Neal inbounded the ball near midcourt and found three-point ace Mike Jones, who had already made five three-pointers. Jones had a glimmer of space but couldn't secure the pass. He later said he had thought about the shot before the catch.

"We let this game get away," D.J. Strawberry said, "and we're going to have to live with that."

Trailing by two with 41 seconds remaining, Maryland opted to play tight defense and force a missed shot rather than put the Bulldogs on the free throw line. Williams said he made that choice because "you plan on getting that rebound."

With no player taller than 6 feet 7, Butler was one of the nation's least accomplished rebounding teams this season. But when Butler's Julian Betko misfired on a three-point attempt, 6-foot Mike Green was in perfect position in front of the basket to grab the rebound with seven seconds left. Green was not even supposed to be in position to make the play, he said, because he was supposed to be back on defense.

Maryland had a chance to tie the game moments earlier, but D.J. Strawberry was called for a charge near the basket. James Gist dropped the ball off to Strawberry, whose shoulder collided with Brandon Crone.

Williams declined to comment on the call because "we need the money at Maryland," referring to the fine he would be assessed if he criticized officials.

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