It was intriguing for a while, Maryland trying to stall its way into a close game, Coach Lefty Driesell running from the court at halftime with his fists in the air and his team trailing by only two points.

But soon, athletic superiority would win out. Top-ranked Houston, pushed by the frenzy of a hometown crowd, overcame the frustration of having to play a half-court game and left the Summit with a 60-50 victory over Maryland in a second-round game of the NCAA Midwest regional.

It was the 23rd straight victory for the Cougars -- the longest winning streak in the nation -- who advances to the regional semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., where they await the winner of Sunday's game between Georgetown and Memphis State.

And it meant the end of the season for Maryland (20-10), which had hoped for yet another upset by making Houston walk rather than run.

Maryland's strategy worked for a while. A patient, double-post offense confused Houston (28-2) enought for the Terrapins to lead by five points early in the game and trail only by 26-24 at halftime.

But the slowdown didn't really faze Guy Lewis, the 60-year-old Houston coach who's seen about everything in his 27-year career. "I figured, as long as they're holding the ball, they're not scoring," he said. "That's how great defensive coaches build up their records."

The Terrapins continued to stall in the second half, even though they trailed.

"Slowing the game down is the way to beat us," said Akeem Abdul Olajuwon, Houston's 7-foot, 250-pound center/mountain from Nigeria. "We like to run up and down. And in this slowdown, we didn't know what to do."

It didn't take the Cougars long to figure it out, however. After Adrian Branch scored one of his game-high 20 points on a foul shot to put the Terrapins within 26-25, Lewis told Akeem (The Dream) to get with it.

First, Olajuwon blocked a hook shot by Ben Coleman that led to two foul shots by Alvin Franklin. Before Olajuwon would dominate again, Houston would have some fun by stalling for two minutes after Coleman missed a follow-up dunk attempt. "Some of their own medicine," Houston's Larry Micheaux said.

Rein Gettys' 25-foot jumper ended the stall and made it 30-25 with 12:07 left.

After a jumper by freshman Len Bias (seven-of-10 shooting, 14 points), Olajuwon got the ball down low but was sandwiched by Mark Fothergill and Coleman. Still, he rared up and made a bank shot for a 32-27 lead. "We should have fouled him every time he got the ball," Driesell said, noting Olajuwon had missed all four of his foul shots.

Branch countered with a short jumper. But Olajuwon powered inside again for a 34-29 lead. Coleman, who seemed psyched out all day by Olajuwon's size and aggression, tried to answer with a jump hook. But Olajuwon, the nation's leading shot blocker, swatted this one away.

Branch managed to make a foul shot, but Olajuwon had set the tone. Guard Michael Young, Houston's leading scorer at 18 points per game, scored six straight points -- four on foul shots, to put his team ahead by 40-30 with 7:10 left.

Branch threw in a few dipsy-doo baskets thereafter, but the outcome was never really in question. Every time a Terrapin even looked like he was trying to go inside, Olajuwon was there, close up and personal.

"He never leaves the paint," Bias said. "On defense he lets you catch the ball, then comes to you ready to block the shot. On offense, well, he's 7 feet, big and can jump. He gets under the basket and what else is there to do but look up and shoot?"

Said Branch: "They've got guys who can cover some ground. I took some shots that probably hurt us. Sometimes, I should have pulled the ball out and run the play over again instead of shooting.

"But you have to give them credit. We kept them from Phi-Slamma-Jammin in our faces, so they beat us in the half court game we initiated. They justified being ranked No. 1. And Olajuwon was the difference."

Olajuwon had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks; his counterpart, Coleman, did not play to his all-Atlantic Coast Conference form.

Coleman, a 58 percent shooter averaging 16 points and eight rebounds, scored eight points (three for 10) and has six rebounds before fouling out late. "It was always on my mind that he (Olajuwon) is one of the top shot blockers in the nation," Coleman said.

The discouraging thing about playing Houston is that the Cougars have at least four players who can control the direction of a game at any time. Young, the 6-6 guard, scored a team-high 16 points and had seven rebounds. And Clyde Drexler, an all-American, scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.

Said Bias: "They're just some strong, fast, high-jumping guys."

In the first game of this Midwest doubleheader, Villanova of the Big East Beat Lamar, 60-58.

Villanova (23-7) took a 48-36 lead with 11:06 to play on a 16-footer by Mike Mulquin, the senior forward from Georgetown Prep in Rockville.

But the Wildcats committed several turnovers in the final five minutes, while trying to run the spread-delay offense. One of those enabled Kenny Perkins to bank in a shot that cut the Cardinals' deficit to 60-54 with 1:17 remaining.

Fifteen seconds later, all-Big East center John Pinone threw away a pass, and Tom Sewell countered with a short jumper with 42 seconds left that made it 60-56.

Sewell made another fine play by blocking Pressley's layup attempt, sending Lamar's fans from nearby Beaumont into a frenzy. But Sewell then missed a layup. Lamar stole the ball and Perkins scored with three seconds left, but it was too late