A week ago, when Maryland lost to Ohio State, there was little light to be seen at the end of the tunnel. Last night, Maryland lost again, a 64-63 overtime game to UNLV, but this loss was due to mental errors and inexperience, not physical shortcomings.
Armon Gilliam (17 points, nine rebounds) made UNLV's only two baskets of the overtime period, but that was enough because the Terrapins, who stormed from 13 points behind early in the second half, were too impatient against UNLV's zone.
Maryland's Jeff Baxter missed a jumper from the deep corner with six seconds left. Given a reprieve when UNLV substitute guard Steve Wade missed two free throws with three seconds to play, the Terrapins (4-2) almost won on a desperation shot from beyond midcourt by guard Keith Gatlin. However, the attempt bounded off the back of the rim as time ran out.
But it never should have gotten to that point, according to Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell.
UNLV's Anthony Jones never should have had a chance to make the 18-foot jumper with five seconds left that sent the game into overtime at 60-60.
During a timeout with 28 seconds left in regulation and a 60-58 lead off two of Len Bias' game-high 22 points, Driesell said he told his players they had three fouls to give before UNLV began shooting one and ones.
The strategy was simple. Take fouls. Don't allow a shot. Initially, it worked. Baxter took a foul with 16 seconds to go. But the Terrapins didn't take another foul until six seconds remained in overtime.
"We were playing off them," said Maryland forward Derrick Lewis. "I think we just forgot because we were thinking about looking for a last shot if they made it. It was a simple mental error.
"He (Driesell) wasn't upset about the loss. That was the only thing he was upset about. He said we should have paid attention in the huddle."
"We had a shot at it," Driesell said. "I thought our defense was great the second half. If we'd played a little bit smarter at the end and fouled when they weren't in the one and one, we could have beaten them . . . I told them to foul whoever had the ball. We had two or three to waste then."
Maryland still played pretty decent defense at that stage. In fact, Jones, the former Dunbar High and Georgetown University player, improvised somewhat to get open for the difficult 18-foot side jumper that he made with five seconds left in regulation.
UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian called a play designed to get Jones a shot from the top of the key. But Maryland's Speedy Jones was overplaying Anthony Jones to that side.
So Anthony Jones (16 points, eight rebounds) dropped off toward the baseline instead. Eldridge Hudson (13 points) set a pick, cutting off Speedy Jones, and Gilliam threw the perfect pass to Jones.
The smooth senior was having an off-night shooting (six for 18), but he wanted the ball anyway. "Definitely," he said. "I just keep on shooting. I'm a shooter and a scorer."
The Terrapins took a timeout with three seconds left, but were unable to get off a shot.
UNLV, which was successful getting the ball inside in the first half, again succeeded at the start of overtime. UNLV won the tap and Fred Banks fed Gilliam for a layup and a 62-60 lead.
Three times Maryland had the opportunity to tie, but all it could get was a free throw by Bias. Baxter and Gatlin (13 points) each missed shots, and Driesell faulted them for not penetrating more and drawing fouls in the overtime.
When Banks fed Gilliam for a short turnaround jumper it was 64-61 with 1:42 to play. Bias cut the deficit to 64-63 with a 13-foot jumper with 1:23 left. UNLV got the ball inside again to Gilliam, but he missed, and Speedy Jones took the rebound with 45 seconds to play. After a timeout with 27 seconds left, the Runnin' Rebels put pressure on the ball and sagged in the middle.
With the clock ticking under 10, Gatlin was forced to his left and passed to Baxter in the corner. Baxter wanted to pass to Bias, but he was way on the other side of the court. Baxter missed the 22-footer and Richard Robinson rebounded.
"That wasn't a real good shot. You want to try to go inside," Driesell said.
"It felt comfortable," Baxter said. "I just haven't been hitting them lately."
Maryland still had two fouls to give. Bias took one on the rebound and Gatlin another on the inbounds pass. Then Baxter fouled Wade with three seconds left. He was awarded two shots for an intentional foul, but missed them both, and the Terrapins executed well this time.
Only time ran out, and the best shot Gatlin could get was from midcourt.